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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 06:19 GMT
Climate threat to moorland birds
Golden plover
The golden plover has been protected by law since 1979
Future climate change could threaten the populations of moorland birds.

Scientists at Newcastle and Manchester universities have found that golden plover chicks now hatch on average nine days earlier than 20 years ago.

The bird is found on the moors and peat bogs of the Pennines, Peak and Lake Districts, and the Highlands.

Scientists say failure of the plover chick's main prey, daddy long legs or craneflies, to adapt at the same rate could threaten the plover's future.

Warmer springs

They say warmer springs have brought about the change and other upland species such as greenshank and red grouse could also be affected.

The study warns that if climate change predictions prove accurate, golden plovers will be nesting three weeks earlier by 2100.

While craneflies will adapt to some extent, they are unlikely to be present in sufficient numbers to sustain the earliest golden plover chicks, experts believe.

Dr James Pearce-Higgins, research biologist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and who led the research, said: "The golden plover has been protected by EU law since 1979, because of the important populations in the UK.

"Any escalation of climate change will put in peril not just the plover but other moorland and peatland species as well."


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