Thursday, 30 July 2015

Climate change: risks & opportunities for species in England

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 

Thumbnail image of publication cover.
There is already strong evidence for a wide range of impacts of climate change on England’s wildlife, such as changes in distributions, phenology, community composition and habitat condition. The UK is one of the best recorded sites in the world for species distribution and clear shifts in the northern limits of some mobile animal groups have been identified, as well as redistributions to higher altitudes. In order to target conservation resources efficiently and effectively, Natural England has to prioritise action based on the rarity of species, their threats and their current rates of decline. As part of this, Natural England needs to understand how it can help species to adapt to climate change and to encourage species that might thrive under climate change if given the appropriate management.
This project aims to fill an important gap in our evidence base by using the latest modelling techniques and analytical frameworks to explore how species are likely to change their distributions (and for migratory birds, their population sizes) as a result of climate change. The analysis was undertaken for 3000 species of a wide range of terrestrial taxa (from vascular plants and bryophytes to spiders and beetles) and assesses the potential risks within their existing ranges as well as the opportunities that might be provided in new areas. A more detailed analysis was applied to 400 species, taking into account the factors that might exacerbate or mitigate the impacts of climate change. Finally a very detailed framework was applied to 30 species to explore the adaptation options that might be available to conservation practitioners.
The project thus provides a good evidence base for conservation practitioners to use within the context of their planning at national and local scales. It also demonstrates the value of the more detailed frameworks to provide additional information of value in addition to identifying potentially useful adaptation options.

Downloads available for this record

NECR175 edition 1 - Research on the assessment of risks & opportunities for species in England as a result of climate change, PDF, 2.1 MB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 1: Basic framework results, XLSX, 451.7 KB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 2: Full framework results, XLSX, 80.4 KB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 3: Migratory species results, XLSX, 20.3 KB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 4: Adaptation Framework Results - Broadleaved Woodland species, XLS, 185.0 KB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 5: Maps relating to Broadleaved Woodland species, PDF, 5.3 MB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 6: Adaptation Framework Results - Chalk Grassland species, XLSX, 62.2 KB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 7: Maps relating to Chalk Grassland species, PDF, 5.2 MB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 8: Adaptation Framework Results - Lowland Heath species, XLSX, 55.0 KB
NECR175 edition 1 - Annex 9: Maps relating to Lowland Heath species, PDF, 5.9 MB

Research on the assessment of risks & opportunities for species in England as a result of climate change - NECR175

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