A report has just come out from Natural England:
Climate change – wildlife winners and losers
Wasps, bees, ants and southern species including the Dartford warbler and emperor dragonfly are
likely to benefit from climate change in England. Further north and in the uplands, breeding birds such
as the curlew and the cuckoo, as well as damp-loving mosses and liverworts will be put at great risk
by rising temperatures.
This paper is taken from a Natural England report: “Research on the assessment of risks &
opportunities for species in England as a result of climate change”, (NECR175) which can be
accessed at: http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4674414199177216
Describing the potential shift in distribution of more than 3,000 plants and animals that may occur in
England in response to climate change, it is the largest and most comprehensive assessment of its
kind ever undertaken in the country.
Looking at where suitable climatic conditions for different species are likely to be found in 2080, given
a 2°C increase in average global temperature, over a quarter (27%) of species were at high to
medium risk of losing a substantial proportion of their currently suitable ranges. Although just over half
(54%) could potentially expand their ranges, this is not likely to be possible in many cases because of
limited mobility or a lack of suitable habitats.
A more detailed study of 400 species included information on population trends and took into account
other factors that are known to make species more vulnerable to climate change, such as agricultural
intensification or restriction to small, localised populations. This analysis found that the proportion of
wildlife at risk from climate change was slightly higher at 35%, with 42% likely to have opportunities to
expand. When looking at 155 species currently listed as being of high conservation concern, 38%
were identified as being at risk, with 39% potentially benefiting from a changing climate, suggesting
climate change may pose the greatest threat to species already threatened by other factors.
The results reflect the fact that there are more southerly-distributed species than northern species
living in England, giving greater scope for southerners to flourish from climate warming. As a result,
those at greatest risk are species which are of high conservation concern, often found in upland
habitats, such as twite, golden plover and mountain crowberry. Other wildlife expected to suffer
include seabirds such as the kittiwake, and some lowland species such as lapwing, rare spring sedge,
orange ladybird and the triangle hammock spider. In contrast, further population increases are likely
for birds such as the avocet and the little egret. Other expected beneficiaries include the large
wainscot and white line dart moths.
Dr Tom Oliver, Ecological modeller at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), said, “The next
steps will be to further reduce uncertainty by working to improve our modelling methods; for example,
to better understand the impacts of an expected increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.
For species suffering under climate change, there are a number of conservation actions we can take
that will help them to persist.”
Dr James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science at the British Trust for Ornithology, who led the
research, said, “This study is dependent upon the observations of thousands of volunteers who
submit sightings of wildlife to organisations like ourselves and the Biological Records Centre. By
knowing where species occur, we can link their distribution to the climate they require in order to
make predictions about the future.”
Alan Spedding, 27 July 2015
Research on the assessment of risks & opportunities for species in England as a result of climate change - NECR175