Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Species in Decline in Somerset by Habitat


  • Of 1,064 farmland species for which we have trends, 60% have decreased and 34% have decreased strongly.

  • 14% of all farmland flowering plants are on the national Red List: 62 species in all.

In Somerset:

Cirl bunting is now extinct in the county; they were last recorded in Somerset in 2001.

Corn bunting is extinct as a breeding species in Somerset; the last breeding record was in 2000.

There is concern for the longer term survival of the mistletoe marble moth, one of a small suite of scarce insects associated with mistletoe. This species frequents orchards and gardens. Somerset is currently a stronghold for this moth, but the loss of traditional orchards supporting mistletoe is likely to impact upon this species.

Corn buttercup and shepherd’s-needle are two once common but now critically endangered arable plants both just hanging on in Somerset.

More info: Read how our Living Landscape teams in the Brue Valley and on Mendip are working with farmers and landowners to bring nature back.  

 Cirl Bunting

Cirl bunting is now extinct in the county


Lowland semi-natural grassland and Heathland

  • Overall, 65% of the 923 species for which we have sufficient data have declined, and 35% have declined strongly. A warming climate may be helping some species.

  • One in four species of flowering plants is threatened in these habitats. Nitrogen deposition, disturbance, inadequate or inappropriate land management, and habitat loss and fragmentation all pose barriers to recovery.

In Somerset:
In 1977 whinchat numbered 153 pairs on the Levels and Moors. They are now extinct in this area.

There were 257 pairs of lapwing on the Levels and Moors in 1977. By 2009 this had fallen to just 62 pairs.  And six out of 10 lapwings are now found exclusively on nature reserves on the Levels.

The carnivorous great sundew plant has been lost from the Blackdown Hills and is now extinct in the county.

More info: The Trust's Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve continues to provide an oasis of some of the best wetland habitat in the UK.


Winchat are no longer seen on the Somerset Levels


  • Of 886 upland species for which we have information, 65% have declined and 34% have declined strongly.

  • More species have become extinct in the uplands (15) than in any other habitat: 137 upland species, including 131 plants, are on recent national Red Lists.

In Somerset:
Curlew, black grouse and red grouse no longer breed on Exmoor.
There were 30 pairs of breeding ring ouzel on Exmoor in 1988; it is now extinct, the last pair breeding there in 2002.

Bog rosemary - formerly found only on the peat moors and on Black Down on the Mendip Hills, this dwarf shrub is now extinct in the county.


Curlew no longer breed on Exmoor


  • The area of UK woodland has increased, mainly due to conifer planting, but woodland birds have been declining since the 1970s and butterflies since the 1990s. 94 species of woodland moths have halved in number.

  • Of the 1,256 woodland species studied, 60% have decreased and 34% have decreased strongly.

  • 11% of woodland vascular plants are on the national Red List: 30 species in all.

In Somerset:
Both pearl bordered and high brown fritillary butterflies are now extinct in Somerset.

Wood warbler has declined by over 60% in Somerset’s upland oakwoods.



These butterflies are extinct locally



  • Of the 682 coastal species for which we have trends, 60% have declined and 29% have declined strongly.

  • 13% of coastal plant species are regarded as threatened with extinction in the UK.

  • Habitats such as saltmarsh support internationally important bird and invertebrate populations. Huge areas of coastal habitat have been lost or damaged in recent history, as a result of coastal development, cliff stabilisation and changes to agricultural practices.

In Somerset:
Oystercatcher and ringed plover are estimated to have seen an 80% decline since 1970s as a coastal breeding bird.

White fronted goose used to winter in Bridgwater Bay in 1960s with up to 2000 birds present. No longer occurs - 100% loss.

Golden hair lichen, a UK priority species now extinct in the county.

More info: Join our Living Seas project as a volunteer and help us tackle marine loss.

Oystercatcher_Ben Simmonds

Oystercatcher numbers have declined by 80%

Freshwater and wetlands

  • 57% of freshwater and wetland species for which we have sufficient data have declined, and 28% have declined strongly.

  • Many characteristic freshwater species have declined significantly over the last 50 years, including the Atlantic salmon, water vole and the aquatic plant frogbit.

  • One in ten species of freshwater and wetland plants assessed are on recent national Red Lists. Some, such as the freshwater pearl mussel, are threatened with global extinction.

In Somerset:
The common eel has become increasingly scarce, one of the few globally threatened species in the UK.

The only remaining UK populations of the flowering rush weevil are found on the Somerset Levels.

Great water-parsnip ­ just 50 plants left in the Brue Valley on the Somerset Levels. These are being brought back as part of a project called Flowering for Life.

­ Great Water Parsnip

These threatened plants are being brought back


  • UK seabirds have had mixed fortunes since 2000, with some species showing sharp declines. Harbour seals have also declined significantly.

  • The state of UK fish stocks has improved recently, but overall, 75% of EU fish stocks continue to be overfished. Skates and rays are no longer viable commercial species in many areas.

  • There is increasing evidence that climate change is affecting the breeding success of UK seabirds.

Thornback Ray

Skates and rays are no longer viable commercial species in many areas


Wildlife doing well in Somerset with our support

  • Large blue butterfly ­ - a re-introduction project coupled with grazing management of steep, unimproved grassland slopes in the east of the county has successfully returned this beautiful insect to the county. Read more about this project at our Green Down Nature Reserve
  • Otter

  • Common crane ­- a partnership project has successfully reintroduced this spectacular bugling bird to Somerset’s wetlands after an absence of hundreds of years, there are high hopes that birds will breed successfully in the next few years. Creation and management of a mosaic of pools and grazed wet grassland has been crucial.

  • Bittern ­on Somerset’s Avalon Marshes -­ a network of reedbeds and open water habitats created by conservation charities at the end of the last century from worked-out peat diggings have proved popular with a bird that was down to just a handful of booming males in the UK in the 1990s. You can hear the spring time 'boom' of the bittern at our Westhay National Nature Reserve

  • The first ever breeding record for avocet in Somerset was summer 2012. Avocet started wintering in the 1950s at the mouth of the Parrett with 5-6 birds and now around 200 winter here regularly.

Bittern_Pete Blanchford

Bittern have recovered in Somerset

Common Crane_Stefan Johansson

Cranes have been successfully reintroduced


Find out more about the report


Wildlife in decline nationally and locally

Oystercatcher_Ben Simmonds

Key threats to wildlife


Why Somerset remains special