Nature and climate change

The ways in which climate change affects wildlife are complex and many of them are intertwined.

Global Impact

Smoking ground on the edge of a fire which started on a neighbouring grouse moor to RSPB Dove Stone Nature Reserve and slowed down enough to be put out against a wet sphagnum filled gully

Studies show the catastrophic impact climate change will have on wildlife around the globe, with a million species expected to be on the path towards extinction by 2050.

 

Our report Nature of Climate Change summarises such impacts and gives examples of how we are responding. Although there are some winners, the science shows the overwhelming effects of climate change upon biodiversity are damaging.

How Climate Change affects Wildlife

Adult redwing foraging on grass with snow falling

The ways in which climate change affects wildlife are often quite complex and interconnected. Broadly speaking, they fall into the following categories:

  • Changes to the availability of the right climate conditions
  • Changes in timings of seasonal events
  • The impacts of extreme weather
  • Changes in how different species interact with each other
  • Changes in land use and management

 

Click here to read the summary report.

Click here for the full report.

Impacts on migration

Aerial view over the deep green rolling hills of a Pyreneean valley near the France Spain border, with a flock of Great Cormorant migrating

Climate change impacts on many birds’ migrations. Habitats may change in stop over locations, hostile areas may get larger and changes in wind patterns may hinder movement.

 

Birds also need suitable conditions to remain at the locations at either end of the migration journey.

 

Nature conservation and good land management are vital to enable birds to meet the challenges they face now and in the future.

Atlas of Change

Redshank Tringa totanus, in breeding plumage, Geltsdale RSPB reserve, Cumbria,

The Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds, by the RSPB, along with the University of Cambridge and Durham University, comes to a stark conclusion.

 

If the average global temperature rises by 3C it is projected the future potential range of Europe’s breeding birds will shift 340 miles northeast and reduce in size by a fifth. For some species the potential future range does not overlap with the current range at all.

Already seeing a shift

Climate change is already having a dramatic affect. Spring is arriving around 11 days earlier than 30 years ago and the growing season is around 30 days longer. Warmer seas have caused food shortages for seabirds, resulting in breeding failures. Ranges are shifting, with warmer temperatures helping the spread of little egrets and Dartford warblers.

 

The RSPB is already changing how we manage our nature reserves to adapt to changing climate conditions.