A puffin perched on its nest

5 species we can save from climate change

Over 38 million birds have vanished from UK skies in the last 50 years. More are at risk. Here are just 5 of the many species that are impacted by climate change. But it's not too late to save them...

A male capercaillie displaying amongst heather

Capercaillie: Loss of chicks

Capercaillie are hugely charismatic birds and the world’s largest grouse. In spring they gather at communal display grounds known as leks, where males strut their stuff uttering a bizarre whispering, clicking and popping ‘song’. Hunted to extinction in the past, they were reintroduced in 1876, however, the population has plummeted again. The last survey estimated there were only around 1,100 individuals left.

 

The reasons for capercaillie decline are many and complicated, but disturbance from humans and predation are a key issue. Colder and wetter summers due to climate change also mean a higher number of chicks dying. In some years very few chicks make it to adulthood.

 

We've been working hard to save capercaillie over the last two decades. We can help by monitoring their population, carrying out research and managing habitat both on our reserves and advising others elsewhere. Whilst the population has remained at very low levels, without our efforts, the species might well have been extinct already.

Mountain ringlet butterfly

Mountain ringlet: Loss of habitat

The mountain ringlet is an inconspicuous, brown butterfly, yet the UK’s only truly montane butterfly species. They can be found in the Lake District and the west and central Highlands of Scotland. 

This butterfly favours cold-adapted habitats, so as our planet warms, lower elevation sites become less suitable. This means the mountain ringlet is becoming restricted to higher – and increasingly smaller - elevations.

We've been helping this species by carrying out research to understand the ecology of the mountain ringlet since not much is already known. This has meant a bit of detective work running up and down steep mountain slopes chasing after butterflies, and a lot of staring at grass to work out what kind of habitat the caterpillars need. This work will help to understand how better to protect this species to reduce climate change impacts.

A puffin with sandeels in its beak

Lesser sandeel: Loss of plankton

Not an eel at all but an eel-like fish, the lesser sandeel is one of the most important fish in the north-east Atlantic. As well as being a fascinating creature in its own right, it's also a key part of the food web supporting not only seabirds but whales and seals too.

 

Climate change has caused warmer seas which have changed the types of plankton living in UK waters. This has affected how many sandeels there are meaning species that depend on them like kittiwakes and puffins have less of this valuable food source. As a result, they are having to travel further to find suitable food, sometimes resulting in starving chicks.

 

Your input on projects like #Puffarazzi, as well as close monitoring by scientists to record the changes in seabird diet is helping us better understand how they are faring with climate change. We're also calling for a different approach to managing the sandeel fishery to recognise the needs of seabirds and other marine animals.

A dotterel standing in a tilled field

Dotterel: Loss of insects

The dotterel is an enigmatic wader species that breeds on high mountain plateaux in Scotland, and winters in parts of North Africa. Unlike most bird species, female dotterels are larger and more brightly coloured than their male counterparts, reflecting their reversed sex roles. Females often court and mate with multiple males, whereas males look after the chicks.

 

In recent decades dotterel have declined and disappeared from lower elevation mountains in the UK, possibly due to climate change. Why these lower elevation sites have been abandoned is not 100% clear, but it may be due to the decline of important insect prey.

 

We can help by monitoring changes in the population size of dotterel by carrying out periodic nationwide surveys. We're currently carrying out research to understand more about the impacts of climate change on this unusual species. 

Pied flycatcher: Loss of seasons

The dapper-looking pied flycatcher visits some of our woodlands each spring, flying 5,000 miles from sub-Saharan Africa just to breed here in the UK.

 

Like many migratory birds, pied flycatchers can be sensitive to climate change in the places they visit during migration. The weather they encounter on their incredible migrations can make the difference between life and death. In the UK they need to nest at the same time as their insect food is available. All these critical events are changing rapidly because of climate change. Currently, pied flycatchers have managed to adapt to climate change by migrating and nesting earlier, although as things become worse in the future, there may be limits to how much they can change.

 

Unfortunately, UK pied flycatchers are in decline, but if we can identify where they go on migration, when they depart and the weather they encounter along the way, we can work out how this affects their survival. 

It doesn't have to be this way

Together we can reverse the loss of wildlife and stop these species from becoming endangered or, even worse, extinct. 

 

Stand up and be counted by adding your voice to the call for nature's recovery to be written into law.

 

The time to revive our world is now.