Sunday, March 8, 2009

Climate change already affecting European wildlife, study shows

The goldfinch is one of the species affected by climate change. Photo: Rob Waterhouse

European bird populations are already being affected by climate change, according to a new report, which has found significant parallels between observed changes of bird population and projections of change based on global warming.

The study, published in scientific journal PLoS One, is the world's first indicator of climate change impacts on wildlife on a continental scale.

Of the 122 bird species studied, 30 are projected to increase their range, including the hoopoe, goldfinch and collared dove, while the remaining 92, including the wood warbler, snipe and lapwing, are projected to decrease.

“Those birds we predict should fare well under climate change have been increasing since the mid-80s, and those we predict should do badly have declined over the same period," said co-author Dr. Stephen Willis from Durham University. "The worry is that the declining group actually consist of 75 per cent of the species we studied.”

The paper's lead author, Dr. Richard Gregory from the RSPB, said: "Although we have only had a very small actual rise in global average temperature, it is staggering to realise how much change we are noticing in wildlife populations.

"If we don’t take our foot off the gas now, our indicator shows there will be many much worse effects to come."

The EU is using the indicator as an official measure of the impacts of climate change on the continent’s wildlife.

Scientists from the RSPB, Durham University, the European Bird Census Council, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, the Czech Society for Ornithology, and Statistics Netherlands contributed to the report. To read the full report, click here.

Source: RSPB

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