RSPB report says climate change threatens UK birds

A new report warns that familiar wildlife will quickly decline in the UK if immediate action is not taken to tackle climate change.

The MONARCH report, published on Tuesday (22 May), to which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has contributed, details the predicted change in the suitability of the UK’s climate for 32 species including the song thrush, common scoter duck, black grouse and capercaillie.

Other species are also threatened by climate change, most notably the ring ouzel – known as the mountain blackbird – and the golden plover, a striking bird of the uplands.

Seabirds may face a bleak future too, as do long distance migrants such as the cuckoo and spotted flycatcher and the RSPB believes government must help wildlife adapt to climate change by funding habitat re-creation within and beyond protected sites.

UK government promises to cut greenhouse gases to tackle climate change is applauded but its targets are too weak, says the RSPB.  The UK government’s current target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions is 60% by 2050. The RSPB, together with Stop Climate Chaos, believes the science now requires a reduction target of 80% by 2050.

According to the RSPB Song thrushes could be given a significant boost in southern England, where they are believed to be most at risk, if drainage of wetlands and farmland was reduced.

The report also calls for an extension to environmental schemes to help bolster bird numbers. 

“The MONARCH report predicts that new areas of the UK will become suitable for stone-curlews, corn buntings and turtle doves. Farming practices harm all these species, however, and their expansion in range will depend on improvements to environmentally friendly farming schemes,” said the RSPB statement.

Mark Avery, conservation director at the RSPB, said: “The MONARCH report provides yet more evidence that action on climate change is crucial and urgent if we are to save wildlife from its effects.

“The government must commit to more stringent emissions cuts if we are to keep temperature rise below the global safety limit of two degrees this century.

“Action throughout the UK must also take into account the devastating impact climate change may have on the environment and wildlife. We must manage the countryside to help wildlife adapt to climate change and provide new areas to accommodate species being forced to move. We must adapt and extend our nature reserves and create much bigger areas of habitat to put back what has been lost.”

Jeremy Wilson, RSPB head of research in Scotland, said: “The MONARCH studies suggest that we must increase our conservation work for northern species such as capercaillie and black grouse. Strengthening species populations today will put them in a stronger position to face any potential problems in the future.