The five UK species most likely to suffer from climate change
More common garden birds will also find it difficult to adapt to the increasing heat, such as the song thrush and blackbird, which will find it much more difficult to burrow worms in hard, baked ground, especially as the worms go deeper underground to find cooler ground.
According to a BTO report last year, a quarter of UK breeding bird species appear to be negatively impacted by climate change, while a quarter may be reacting positively. However, Pearce-Higgins points out that new species arriving in the UK will only be able to thrive if suitable habitat is created for them. As well as ensuring the quality of wetlands, grasslands and forests to provide refuge for new visitors, he says, it is also vital to help our current native species adapt.
An example is re-wetting marshy heathland that has been drained over the past century, to ensure it does not dry out over the summer and to maintain healthy insect populations for birds to feed on.
Pearce-Higgins says studies of the threatened moorland bird, the golden plover, show that with sympathetic work to help preserve its upland habitat, the species can cope with warming of up to 2C . “There’s a lot of evidence around the world that if you understand the species you’re trying to help, you can do something to make populations more resilient to the negative effects of climate change,” he says.
Tropical Britain might then be noisier, wilder and more exotic than we’ve known for centuries – but without preserving the landscapes to welcome our new guests, we’ll be looking at a desert.