A country of naturalists Following the launch of the RSPB's 'State of Nature' report, Chiara Ceci discusses the vital role that volunteers and citizen scientists play in supporting wildlife conservation in the UK. Britain has a strong tradition of amateur recorders in the field of nature and the environment. Much of our current understanding of the UK’s wildlife derives from the great efforts and expertise of volunteer naturalists and the wider contributions of citizen scientists of all ages and from all walks of life. Today 53 UK wildlife organisations are launching the State of Nature report, the biggest ever report investigating the state of Britain's wildlife, and like all the other people involved in this project I know the importance of the work of citizen scientists. This report wouldn’t have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey the UK’s wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have, and without volunteer effort, our knowledge would be significantly poorer. There are more than 200 voluntary wildlife recording initiatives across the UK, with an estimated 70 000 people helping with biological recording every year. It has been calculated that we benefit from more than 7.5 million hours of volunteer time every year for ‘monitoring, data collation and analysis’. Just for the structured schemes run in collaboration with the government it has been estimated that volunteer monitoring is worth £8.6 million per annum. And this doesn’t include all the people that get involved with other public activities like the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch (with over half a million people just last year), Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count (more than 250,000 people in the last six years) and many others. Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) The study shows that the threats our natural environment is facing are clearer than ever: 56% of UK species studied have declined over the last 50 years, while more than one in ten of a total of 7,964 species are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. Over the last decade 53% of UK species have declined, and there is little evidence that the rate of loss of nature is slowing down. Sir David Attenborough said: “The future of UK nature is under threat and we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and, I believe that we can turn around the fortunes of wildlife.” Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) Nature is in trouble and needs our help. The good news is that there is a lot that people can do to help, for example: Count the wildlife that's counting on you: if you want to help record and monitor wildlife there are a number of citizen science schemes you can join. Volunteer: you can get in touch with a wildlife organisation and help with a wide range tasks from managing nature reserves to answering the phone. Whatever your skills you could help nature by volunteering your time and support. Manage your space for wildlife: whether it's in your garden, house, window box, school or office you can help nature thrive. Make your voice for nature heard: from protecting important sites for wildlife to defending the laws that protect nature you can make your views count getting involved in campaigning. Live sustainably: the food we eat, the energy we use and how we travel can all have knock on impacts on nature. But there is information available that can help you live more sustainably. To find out more about how to get involved in these five ways and help nature, have a look at the State of Nature infographic and follow #StateOfNature on Twitter. Whatever you can do to help, don't forget to get out and enjoy nature first hand. Experiencing nature is good for you! Chiara Ceci works at the RSPB, a charity whose mission is to provide nature with a home. For more information about the work they do, and how you can get involved, please check out their website.