A leading Oxford University scientist is helping to set out how the British countryside is responding to climate change.
Dr Pam Berry is on the working group of senior scientists developing a series of 'Report Cards' that summarise the emerging themes from hundreds of scientific studies to provide an overview of key trends. The first of the series is being published tomorrow on the website of Living With Environmental Change Partnership – a group of organisations concerned with the funding and use of environmental research.
The Report Cards are a series of click-through online reports that will advise government policy makers, land managers, environmental consultants and researchers about current evidence and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Dr Pam Berry is a senior research fellow at the Environmental Change Institute and also an Honorary Vice President of BBOWT (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust). As a leading expert on the effects of climate change on biodiversity in the UK, Dr Berry has co-authored research in the Report Cards about the likely effect of climate change on the UK's amphibians and reptiles.
She said: 'Understanding the current and potential future impacts of climate change on species and habitats is an important first step to taking appropriate conservation action. The Report Card will give an indication of how our wildlife might change in the future and where action might be most needed.
'Modelling has suggested that climate change could have little impact on species such as the common toad, but it could pose a threat to several British reptile and amphibian species, including the adder and common frog. As well as having to cope with climate change, these species and others are facing a number of other challenges, including a shrinking habitat.'
The Report Cards outline a number of large-scale trends and regional variations. One startling statistic is the sharp decline in wildfowl and wading birds wintering in the UK. Surveys carried out between the winters of 1997/8 and 2007/8 show that there has been a 44 per cent decline in the number of Bewick's swans in the UK as the birds travel further north and east to other parts of Europe. This is partly due to winter warming although some land-use change may also be responsible, the research suggests.
Other species to have moved northwards or to higher ground include dragonflies and the bee orchid, which have expanded their range in Britain. However, other northern and upland species, such as the mountain ringlet butterfly, are experiencing a diminishing habitat.
The Report Cards warn of the risk of new pests and diseases, for instance, the oak processionary moth whose caterpillars can cause respiratory problems in humans is now colonising and spreading in the UK.
The project is managed by Natural England, working with the Environment Agency and the Living with Environmental Change Partnership. It was funded by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and NERC (Natural Environment Research Council).
The first report, published tomorrow, has been compiled by Britain's top 40 environmental scientists and 20 different research and conservation organisations.
The Report Cards can be downloaded from the Living With Environmental Change website.