Video: Are England’s woods disappearing?
If has been a year of bad omens for the UK’s natural world.
One in ten wildlife species are now at risk of extinction, the landmark State of Nature report announced in September. In sheer numbers, one in six of the country’s animals, birds, fish and plants have already been lost.
The UK is now “among the most nature depleted countries in the world”, it warned.
Into this state of affairs, entered Brexit.
The majority of the UK’s domestic environmental legislation comes from the EU, meaning that regulations governing pesticides to water to farming could now be set to fundamentally change.
Not forgetting the billions of pounds in EU money that is sent to the UK to support nature protection, renewable energy, and environmental research that is now at risk.
Read more: Brexit – scientists fear for future of environmental research
So while there are some opportunities for progress, campaigners are worried.
The government’s record on protecting the environment suggests they are right to be.
An Unearthed investigation revealed in August that the government’s top watchdog for the natural environment is deliberately reining in its regulatory powers and seeking increased funding from the companies it assesses under the pressure of sharp budget cuts.
Read more: Leaked documents reveal plan to rein in England’s nature watchdog
While a case at the High Court in September ruled that the government’s air pollution plan is lax to the point of being illegal – soon after the minister responsible repeatedly refused to commit to retaining the EU’s pollution limits.
And as the year draws to a close, conservationists have raised a fresh concern – that so few trees are being planted in England that it may now be entering a period of deforestation.
Before the 2015 election, the Conservatives promised to plant 11 million trees over the course of parliament.
But tree planting rates have not been so low since records began in the 1970s, meaning that based on current trends, the government is already seven years behind.
Read more: Conservative party years behind tree planting pledge
2017 will be one to watch – and challenge – for nature.