Above: L-r: the lapwing and wood warbler are just two of the species whose decline has been linked to climate change Photos l-r: Andy Hay/Graham Goodall


RECENT STUDIES CLAIMING that climate change is having more impact on bird species which benefit from it than those which suffer negative consequences have been challenged in a major study published online this month.

Scientists involved from around Europe, who have investigated 525 bird species over 30 years across two continents (Europe and North America), believed the optimistic results could be due to a time lag in the response of populations to climate change, creating an extinction debt. They also felt that a focus on changes in range rather than numbers may have skewed results.

Many of the studies covered too short a timespan to register shrinking habitat ranges, whereas their three-decade-long study found no evidence that birds which should cope better with climate change were more deeply affected by it than those that were expected to struggle. Changes in bird populations were widespread.

The new study, led by the RSPB, argues that climate change may be a major driver of population change in birds, aggravated by other factors.

Professor Richard Gregory, head of monitoring conservation science at the RSPB, said: “The climate crisis and biodiversity crisis are two sides of the same coin and need to be tackled together.

“Nature cannot afford to wait. We urgently need to investigate how climate change will affect species’ chances of survival in the future and adapt our conservation efforts accordingly.

“Our skies are already falling silent and some of the UK’s most beloved wildlife, such as the puffin, are already at risk of extinction.”

The scientists called for urgent further research into the long-term consequences of climate change on wildlife.

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