By Sanya Khetani-Shah, Thu, 19/11/2015 - 08:51
Climate change is one of the greatest long-term threats to nature and wildlife. Today, the rate at which the Earth is getting warmer is faster than the ability of some species – plants, animals, birds and even humans – to adapt. This is especially true because nature’s resilience to climate change has already been weakened by habitat loss, over-exploitation and other human activities.
The RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds, BirdLife in the UK) has been involved in some of the scientific research that has improved our understanding of the effects of climate change. To spread awareness, they have released a new report bringing together scientific evidence on the effects climate change is already having on wildlife across Europe.
It aims to document the impact of global warming on wildlife that we’ve already seen, changes we might expect in the future, and some conservation responses that could benefit both nature and people.
In the UK and across Europe, climate change is already changing the natural world. Plants and animals can survive only under certain climatic conditions. As the climate changes, species will be affected by, and will have to respond to, the new conditions (they are already doing so by moving north geographically and/or in altitude). From extreme weather events causing mass deaths of some wildlife to rising temperatures forcing species into areas that may not be a suitable habitat, climate change poses big challenges for Europe’s wildlife.
If the global temperature rises by up to three degrees Celsius, the average potential ranges of European species of breeding birds are projected to be 550km further north by the end of the century. Birds are likely to lose 20% of the extent of their breeding ranges, just from changing climate.
And research shows that wildlife will face an even tougher environment than today as a result of rising temperatures, unless we act now and we act fast.
In each section of the RSPB’s new report, examples are presented to illustrate the impact already occurring and effects expected in the future. Each section also provides more detailed case studies focussing on the science and conservation work to which the RSPB has contributed.