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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 00:53 GMT 01:53 UK
Climate 'threatening UK species'
By Sarah Mukherjee
BBC environment correspondent

Capercaillie - Chris Gomersall/RSPB Images
The report says the capercaillie could disappear by the 2050s
Action is needed to prevent the loss of some of the UK's best-loved plants and wildlife to climate change, the authors of a report have suggested.

The seven-year research programme known as Monarch was developed to assess the impacts of projected climate change on wildlife in the UK and Ireland.

The authors warn that some species, such as the capercaillie, could vanish from Britain by the 2050s.

But other species, including the stone curlew, may spread to more of the UK.

Species likely to do best in the hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters predicted by climate scientists are species whose strongholds are currently in continental and Mediterranean Europe.

For example, while it is mainly a Mediterranean and continental European bird, there is a British stone curlew population centred on Breckland and Salisbury Plain, with smaller enclaves elsewhere in southern and eastern England.

Researchers from Monarch (Modelling Natural Resource Responses to Climate Change) say climate change may create the potential for the stone curlew to colonise other sites across much of southern Britain.

However, while more frequent summer drought conditions across southern Britain are likely to favour the dry, short vegetation that it needs for breeding areas, it will reduce the availability of earthworms, which are an important component of its diet.

Corridors

The adonis blue butterfly is another species that might thrive with a warmer climate.

At present, it is restricted to southern England in Britain and Ireland, as it is at the northern limit of its climatic range.

It has declined over the last 200 years and has been lost from the northern part of its British range, in the Cotswolds and East Anglia, and is now largely confined to chalk grasslands.

Researchers say a population expansion is possible, although it may be limited by the fact it likes to live on chalky soil.

Conversely, the climate may become unfavourable for birds like the capercaillie which is found in more northerly climes.

In Britain, it became extinct in the18th Century but was reintroduced in the 19th Century from Sweden, and, currently, is confined to central and northern Scotland.

Conservationists say the report reminds us that helping wildlife adapt will become an increasingly important strand of British conservation work - not just for the threatened species but for thousands of others that will also need to move to find more suitable climes.

They suggest creating wildlife "corridors" through urban areas to help species travel and adapt.


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