There’s no doubt climate change is changing Britain’s species and landscape. Most of that change isn’t at all welcome. The demise of Ash trees—with a disease known as Ash dieback—is caused by a fungus that loves the warmer and wetter conditions across northern England and Scotland. The disease is spreading far faster than it would’ve done without the weather shift. Warmer conditions also favour many exotic—and invasive—species such as Spanish bluebell, which is overtaking our native bluebell in many areas.
But there is a silver lining. A number of butterfly and dragonfly/damselfly species are responding well to the warmth, with comma butterfly and willow emerald damselfly spreading north and west as climate zones move. Little egret, great white egret, cattle egret and black winged stilt are four recent colonists that have opted for Costa del Sussex. And this year the colourful bee-eater has made its home at a cement works in Nottinghamshire!
What of the future?
The future is certainly bright for some species. We’re very likely to see another six to eight dragonfly species, perhaps another ten bird species and five to ten new bee/wasp species arriving in the next decade.
But the real trouble lies in the Scottish mountains where some Alpine plant, insect and bird species are just hanging on. As the weather has warmed, so species have retreated upwards. The problem comes when these cool-loving species run out of mountain. So the reality is we’re likely to lose many vulnerable upland species as lowland species advance. The next decade will be marked by ongoing rapid changes.
What can we do?
Across the conservation community we’ll need to redouble our efforts to ensure new species are given a home and declining species are supported for as long as possible. And most important, let’s keep tackling climate change! (Pictured is the dainty bluet, a species of damselfly that could occur in the UK over the next ten years. Photo: Wikimedia/Frederik)