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One Quarter of Land Life May Die!

Climate change threat to Europe`s birds

A paper to be published in the journal Nature tomorrow shows that climate change could drive a quarter of earth`s land animals and plants to extinction unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced. The assessment focuses on wildlife hotspots across the world, but the research shows there are severe implications for some birds in Europe, including the UK, too.

As part of the research, scientists at the University of Durham and the RSPB looked at 34 birds whose ranges are largely restricted to Europe. They used a scenario for the future climate to look at where in Europe the climatic conditions suitable for each of these birds is likely to be towards the end of the century.In the UK the species with the most uncertain future is the Scottish crossbill, a species of finch confined to the Caledonian pine forest of Highland Scotland. The precise climatic conditions it lives in now may not be found in the UK. The world range of the red kite looks likely to shift nd contract if it remains within its present preferred climate, but it is likely to fare better in Britain. The re-introduced populations in Yorkshire, the Chilterns, Northamptonshire and Scotland and the growing native population in Wales could become increasingly important in global terms.

Dr Rhys Green, an RSPB and Cambridge University research scientist and one of the Nature paper`s co-authors, said: It is expected that the climate in the present range in the Scottish Highlands will have changed substantially by the end of this century. Climate similar to that the Scottish crossbill currently occupies will then be found only in Iceland. It seems unlikely that Scottish crossbills will move there, but if they do not, then they will need to adapt to conditions they have not recently experienced.Commenting on predicted changes to other birds` ranges, Dr Green added: The woodlark and the cirl bunting, birds more or less confined in Britain to southern England, are likely to extend their ranges northward, at least into the Midlands and Yorkshire as the birds if these warmth-loving birds can exploit suitable climatic conditions further north. Whether they can do so will depend on whether suitable habitats are maintained or created on farmland, areas of forestry and nature reserves.

John Lanchbery, of the RSPB, said: Cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide, are urgently needed to avoid the worst outcomes mentioned in the paper. Increased energy efficiency and more renewables are the key to reducing emissions. Countries that currently do little or nothing to limit emissions, especially the USA, must at least take the step of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

4th July 2014