Sea breaking against rocks, Mull Head, North Hill RSPB reserve, Papa Westray, Orkney.

Climate change affects our favourite species

Sadly, climate change is affecting our most-loved species, including puffins and blue tits. But it’s not all bad news. Nature can also be our biggest ally in fighting the nature and climate emergency, if we act now.

A blue tit with caterpillars in it's mouth and a rusty pipe in the background.

Blue tits: they're missing out on caterpillars

Blue tits are a garden favourite. They feed juicy caterpillars to their chicks, and over time, have even evolved so that their breeding cycle coincides with the peak availability of these caterpillars. But this evolution has been a lot slower than the rate of climate change. Blue tits in urban areas often struggle to find food for their chicks. As the climate warms, trees are coming into leaf earlier. This means caterpillars are hatching earlier too. If blue tits get their timing wrong, it means there are fewer caterpillars to go around. Less food then means that fewer chicks are likely to survive.

A puffin facing the camera with sandeels in its mouth

Puffins: how Earth is in delicate balance

Clown-like puffins are incredibly popular, the most familiar of any seabird colony. Puffin chicks (they’re known as pufflings) are raised on fish such as sandeels. Sandeels feat on marine plankton in the cold waters around the coastline of the UK. But as sea temperatures rise due to climate change, plankton communities are also changing. Sandeels are then becoming a much less reliable food source. The upset of this delicate balance means that former puffin strongholds are seeing more chicks at risk of starving.

Can nature help threatened species and the climate?

The answer is yes! It’s easy to think that only wildlife will benefit from protecting and restoring natural habitats. But the great news is that it can actually help us tackle climate change too. It’s win-win!

 

However, as well as being affected by the climate emergency, nature is one of our best solutions to mitigate its effects. By restoring important wildlife habitats such as peatlands and woodlands, we can capture harmful carbon from the atmosphere. These habitats also provide a home and food sources for our incredible wildlife.

Peat bog in Forsinard Flows

Peatlands: the wonder-habitat

Peat bogs are incredible. When in they’re in good condition and not drying out, these amazing habitats act like giant sponges. They suck climate-heating carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and absorb rainwater, reducing the risk of flooding. They also provide vital habitat for threatened species, like curlews. So, by restoring peatland we can support wildlife and tackle climate change at the same time.

A song thrush signing its heart out while perched on a tree branch

Planting hedgerows for nature and climate

Hedgerows and soggy ditches could help us out of the current nature and climate emergency. They both help lock away carbon dioxide, and provide homes for bugs and insects. This then helps threatened birds such as song thrushes, who have declined by more than 49% since 1970, as it gives them a food source and a space to nest.