Climate Change Species Survey poster
Is Devon's wildlife changing?
By Laura Joint
Conservationists are carrying out a survey of key species in Devon, to see if they are being affected by climate change.
Climate Change Predictions
It's predicted that temperatures will rise by up to 6°C by the end of this century.
That will cause hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters.
Hotter summers could make it difficult for animals such as moles and badgers to burrow in the earth.
Sea levels will rise, possibly with catastrophic effects.
Hibernation and migration habits will change for some species.
The temperatures could affect the food chain and habitat, so animals will struggle to eat.
There are fears that some of Devon's best loved wild animals are being affected by man-made climate change.
Now, to assess just how much change is happening to Devon's wildlife, conservationists are carrying out a survey of four key species in the county.
They are focusing their attention on hedgehogs, dormice, moles and Red Admiral butterflies.
Another of the posters, a mole with flippers
There are signs that changes are already starting to happen.
Because of the warmer autumn temperatures, hedgehogs are not hibernating until later in the year, when they struggle to find food.
And the absence of kittiwakes in the Hallsands area of South Devon is being put down to a shortage of food caused by higher sea temperatures affecting fish stocks.
On the other hand, Red Admirals are more likely to survive the winter, while birds such as the Little Egret are now breeding in Devon.
One of the posters projected onto Drake Circus
The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre is gathering information for the Devon Wildlife Trust, and you can help by keeping an eye open for Red Admirals and dormice.
The survey is part of Devon Wildlife Trust's Climate Change Campaign. To help publicise the campaign, the trust has produced posters of the four key species showing them undergoing physical change.
Each carry the logo: Climate Change - We Can Adapt. Can They? The campaign was launched at Drake Circus in Plymouth, when the posters were projected onto the side of the building.
David Ireland, of the trust, said: "The Devon Wildlife Trust is part of the Stop Climate Chaos Campaign, but is particularly focused on the adaptation side of things.
"We've chosen four species, although the mole hills obviously won't be assessed until spring 2007.
How will butterflies fare?
"The public can help with the survey of Red Admirals and dormice. They can tell us when they first see and last see a Red Admiral, and let us know of unusual dormice sightings.
"We've been getting weird sightings of dormice. They've been seen in garden sheds, at bird feeders, and other places. We are trying to find out why.
"Are they looking for places to hibernate, or are they looking for food?"
The autumn of 2006 was a concern for conservationists, with fears that the mild weather would pose problems for species such as hedgehogs. If they go into hibernation later, there is insufficient food for them.
David Ireland says the survey will highlight any long-term effects: "This is our first stab at such a survey and this is the first baseline data. There will be another survey in five years' time to see if there are any changes."
The behaviour of the four key species will also be compared to existing data to see if there has been any change in habits over recent years.
To find out more on how to take part in the survey, visit the trust's website which is linked from this page.
last updated: 22/02/2008 at 09:43