Page last updated at 23:28 GMT, Sunday, 13 April 2008 00:28 UK

Study warns of wildlife 'losers'

young female grey seal basking on a beach
Grey seal pups could be washed away from their narrow shingle beaches

Wildlife will increasingly be divided into winners and losers as the impact of climate change is felt along the UK coast, the National Trust has warned.

The habitats of numerous plants and animals will be damaged by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and flooding.

But warmer temperatures will be good news for some.

Basking sharks, little egrets, and the Celtic sea slug stand to benefit, but wading birds, the grey seal and Sandhill rustic moth could suffer.

Assessments carried out by National Trust on its coastal sites, which cover more than 700 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, found a "huge amount of change".

Breeding grounds

Adrian Woodhall, NT coastal risk assessment officer, said: "This is having, and will have, a major impact on the wildlife and habitats that stretch all the way around our coast - both marine and terrestrial."

Species whose habitat is at risk from climate change should be given space to colonise new areas, he added.

Rising sea levels could narrow the shingle beaches grey seals use to bring up their pups, increasing the risk of the youngsters being washed away.

There are also fears that the salt marshes and mud flats which are home to a number of wading birds will be squeezed by the rising seas, while the breeding grounds of tern species could be flooded.

The habitat of one type of the Sandhill rustic moth, which is found at just one site in Cornwall, could be flooded by the sea if weather gets stormier.

And the tiny lagoon snail - which is just a few millimetres long - will suffer if its caves are inundated with water for long periods of time.

Native species

But climate change will also attract new species to UK shores.

Warmer conditions have already led plankton-eating basking sharks to make their way further up England's east coast.

And the little egret, a Mediterranean member of the heron family, can now be seen as far as Cheshire, Strongford Lough, County Down and the Humber Estuary.

Another Mediterranean visitor, the Celtic sea slug, could spread from its current base in Cornish rock pools, the National Trust said.

But if alien plant species such as the three-cornered leek, Bermuda buttercup and Hottentot fig spread inland from their coastal position they could threaten native species.

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