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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 06:50 GMT
Warming 'could affect' winter birds
Brent goose, RSPB
The Brent goose: 42% of European birds make a UK stopover
Some of Britain's best-loved visiting birds are under threat from global warming, claim conservationists.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), species that overwinter in the UK are at risk of losing their favourite feeding and breeding grounds.

Arctic water birds such as the red knot, dunlin and Brent goose, spend the winter on Britain's coastline.

Red knot, RSPB
Up to a quarter of a million birds flock at one time
Some scientists are predicting that rising temperatures and sea levels on British shores could submerge mudflats and marshes, key habitats for wading birds and wildfowl.

The warning, issued in conjunction with the World Wide Fund for Nature UK (WWF-UK), comes ahead of the second week of climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco.

Representatives of 180 countries are attending the meeting to flesh out a framework accord agreed in Bonn last July.

The United States, which withdrew from the Kyoto protocol earlier this year, is not included.

Political boundaries

Dr Ute Collier, head of WWF's climate change programme, said: "Ministers at the climate change talks would do well to remember that these birds, and many other species that could be affected by global warming, do not understand political boundaries.

"National interests must be put aside and the deal started in July completed, so that real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can begin."

Many of the birds that visit Britain in the winter hail from the Arctic, where they spend three or four months of the year breeding and rearing their young.

The birds' spring-summer habitat, the Arctic tundra, could be replaced by forests as temperatures warm, scientists from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) have predicted.

Almost a third of all dunlin, red knot and Brent geese could be displaced within the next hundred years, they say.

Rising sea levels and higher tides could also threaten some species' winter habitat in the UK, the RSPB says.

At particular risk is the red knot which tends to return to the same mudflat each year.

Images courtesy of the RSPB.

See also:

17 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
UK birds at risk from warming
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