Wales is one of the worst-affected nations in the world for biodiversity loss, and the decline of its wildlife means we face a "nature emergency," a new report warns.

Around half of Wales' animal and plant wildlife has vanished, plunging the nation towards the bottom of a global league table for biodiversity 'intactness'.

Compared to what researchers described as a "pristine state", some 51 per cent of wildlife remains in Wales – and the picture is largely similar across the rest of the UK.

In Scotland, 56 per cent of wildlife remains when compared to "pristine" levels, while in Northern Ireland the figure is 50 per cent and in England – the seventh-worst nation for biodiversity in the world – the figure is 47 per cent.

Those figures form the Biodiversity Intactness Index, an international study that places all of the UK's four nations in the bottom 12 per cent of global countries and territories for wildlife preservation.

The UK as a whole lags far behind the other G7 countries, which have all protected at least 63 per cent of their natural environments.

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Researchers from the Natural History Museum and the wildlife organisation the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB Cymru) say the new rankings form the latest evidence in "a growing body" of scientific work that shows government must act urgently "to halt and reverse declines in wildlife".

"Wales is at a critical point where, if nothing is done, we will have lost more than we have left," RSPB Cymru said.

Research in 2019 found that one in six species in Wales is at risk of extinction, with urban and rural wildlife under threat. In the Conwy countryside, for example, changes in land use have wiped out many suitable nesting grounds for curlews, while in more built-up areas populations of swifts have fallen annually by five per cent in recent years.

RSPB Cymru is leading projects to preserve both species in Wales. 

Following the publication of the new report, Katie-Jo Luxton, director of RSPB Cymru, said: "Each generation of children in Wales inherits a further depleted natural environment – less able to support to meet our needs for clean air, water and food, less able to protect us from disasters such as flood, drought and climate change; and no longer connected to the wildlife that inspires and restores our well-being. 

"This is a call to action to the new Welsh Government to be the first government in our lifetimes to stop this rot and restore nature in Wales."

Last week's reshuffle brought about the expansion of the government's environmental brief. A new climate change ministry, headed by Swansea West MS Julie James, has incorporated energy, housing, planning and transport responsibilities into a much broader ministerial portfolio.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government told The National this week that "the environment and the protection of our natural world will be at the heart of our new government’s decision-making".

Ministers must introduce "strong commitments and new laws at home to make sure we succeed over the next decade,” according to Ms Luxton.

In light of the biodiversity study, RSPB Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to set legally binding targets to halt and start to reverse wildlife declines by 2030.

Wales should also set up an independent watchdog with the power to hold government to account, RSPB Cymru said, and ministers must bring forward legislation that rewards farmers for looking after and restoring nature and the numerous benefits it provides.

More than 80 per cet of Wales is farmed, and "nature-friendly farming is the solution" to restoring wildlife, according to Hilary Kehoe, who chairs the Nature Friendly Farming Network Cymru.

"In order to do this, farmers need to be better supported through new agricultural policies that facilitate and rewards nature-friendly farming," she added.

Following the calls for biodiversity to be protected in Wales, a Welsh Government spokesman said: "We will review the recommendations in the report so our plants and wildlife can be enjoyed by us all today, and our future generations to come.”