Butterflies - early sightings are increasing.
Image - PA.
Nature and climate change
Out investigates the impact of global warming on wildlife across England.
Dilger travels from the South West of England, almost to the Scottish border,
on his quest to find out how climate change is affecting wildlife.
Mike starts his journey in Plymouth fish market in
Devon where every week day catches from all over the country are brought to be
Fish have been caught in the waters around the coast of South West
England for hundreds of years.
But traders are finding is that warm water
species are regularly turning up that were very rare a decade ago.
|Red Mullet - the new British fish with chips?|
this region is one of the warmest places in the country, it's perhaps not surprising
that we're starting to witness some evidence of climate change.
visit to Plymouth fish market we saw Couch's Sea Bream and Red Mullet.
Head Bream and Common Octopus were spotted on other occasions.
are well beyond their usual range. Could this be the impact of climate warming?
Not everybody is agreed because different factors can make fish move around.
what's certain is that sea temperatures around our coasts are getting warmer,
and we're getting lots more curiosities like these.
It's not just in the sea that we are seeing changes
- it's also evident on the beach where the make-up of our wildlife is changing.
next stop is Wembury beach, just a few miles up the coast from Plymouth - a great
place for rock pooling.
|Wembury beach - the climate is changing at beach level|
Here warm water species are becoming more common such as purple top
shells, and experts are finding, that as warm water creatures increase, the cold
water ones lose out.
Nove Mieszkowska of the Marine Biological Association
has been carrying out a four year study of our rocky coast.
that cold water barnacles and limpets are now being outnumbered by warm water
"These are bottom of the food chain
real sentinel species - early warning indicators of what's happening elsewhere
in our marine environment".
the warmer winters mean plenty of Mediterranean creatures are moving in.
example, Little Egrets, which began breeding in Dorset for the first time in 1996,
are now breeding on several sites.
Another creature that's spreading is
the False Widow Spider, a relative of the infamous Black Widow Spider.
|Bug life - some species like our new warmer climate|
These spiders were first recorded in Torquay in Devon in the 19th Century.
They arrived as stowaways on crates of bananas from the Canaries.
remained on the south coast in small clusters.
But with the recent run
of mild winters, they've increased in number and distribution.
has showed that where they meet our native spiders, they either push them out
or eat them!
also likely to lose some of our wildlife, who find it warm enough elsewhere.
the last 10 years the population of winter wading birds has fallen by between
10 and 15 per cent.
|The Dartford Warbler is expanding its range. |
As the temperatures rise on the continent, many
birds realise they don't need to come to Britain for the winter.
stay close to their breeding grounds and save energy.
The Dartford Warbler
was once found only on heathland along the south coast.
Now they've been
seen in East Anglia and South Wales.
Out of harmony?
Dilger also heads north to the Dark Peaks of the Peak District, an area of high
moorland sandwiched between Sheffield and Manchester.
This area boasts
the only English population of Mountain Hare.
In winter they turn white
to camouflage them in the snow, hiding them from predators.
is there's not much snow anymore.
|Out of synchronisation - dangers for the Golden Plover?|
The Hare might eventually stop turning white, but in the meantime they
stick out like a sore thumb.
The Peaks are also the southern extreme of
blanket peat bog, a habitat that's as rare as the rainforest, and internationally
important for breeding birds.
The Golden Plover comes to nest here in
the spring, feeding on the insects in the spagnum pools.
But research shows
that as it's become warmer, the Golden Plover have started nesting earlier.
fear is the insects they feed on won't similarly adapt, and the birds will be
out of synchronisation with the food they depend on.
But the long,
dry summers are causing potentially a much bigger problem.
The peat itself
is drying out, and eroding.
Once the peat loses water, it's difficult for
it to regain that water holding capacity. It also starts releasing carbon.
Mike's final destination is close to the summit of Helvellyn
in the Lake District, not far from the Scottish border.
At 950 metres above
sea level, this mountain is one of the coldest and most inhospitable places.
Yet it's one of the last refuges for some really special wildlife.
a long steep climb Mike finds what he's been looking for.
is one of a community of alpine flowers that are ice age relics.
|Purple Saxifrage - could be driven out by other plants|
You can find them on the north and east faces which are the coldest
parts of the mountain.
Purple Saxifrage is the best known because in April
there's a dramatic display of purple flowers.
These plants survive here
because they have no other plants to compete with.
There are so few species
that can stand the cold, hostile conditions.
But as temperatures rise,
other more aggressive plants are likely to move in, and the Alpine plants, with
nowhere else to go, are likely to disappear.
Butterflies, like birds, are very visible and they
can and do react quickly to climate change by expanding or retracting their range.
This makes them very good indicators of the effects of warming.
|Speckled Wood Butterfly - expanding its range.|
- Natural England/Glendell
Two of our butterflies - the Comma
and the Speckled Wood - have expanded their range dramatically.
ago in England both were largely restricted to the south.
Last year the
Speckled Wood was seen at sites in County Durham, and the Comma has now reached
Researchers reckon they're moving north between one and five
kilometres every year.
many people climate change seems far away.
Yet we know it's happening and
its effects are complex: synchronisation, habitat loss, competition, changes in
distribution, and some very obvious winners and losers.
It's clear that
wildlife is one of the best indicators of climate change whether it's on our coasts,
in wilderness areas or in our very own back gardens.
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