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Upland Birds In Peril From Climate Change

Date:
April 4, 2005
Source:
University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Summary:
Rarely studied upland birds may be as vulnerable as songbirds to climate change, according to a study by researchers who include a Newcastle University scientist.
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Rarely studied upland birds may be as vulnerable as songbirds to climate change, according to a study by researchers who include a Newcastle University scientist.

Scientists from the RSPB and Newcastle and Manchester universities have found that the golden plover, a typical upland bird found on the moors and peat bogs of the Pennines – including the North Pennines and Teesdale – Northumberland, Peak and Lake Districts and Highlands, is breeding significantly earlier than 20 years ago.

The scientists, who include Dr Mark Whittingham, a research fellow with Newcastle University’s School of Biology, say warmer springs have prompted the change and that the failure of the plover chick's main prey - daddy long legs (or craneflies) - to adapt at the same rate, could threaten the plover's future. Other upland species such as greenshank and red grouse could be affected in the same way.

Among the data sources for the RSPB paper was a study by Dr Whittingham, which was carried out in Teesdale in the North Pennines.

Lead author, Dr James Pearce-Higgins, Research Biologist at the RSPB said: "The earliest hatching plover chicks, which normally have the best chance of survival, could in future struggle to find food, reducing their overall breeding success and threatening the population size.

"The golden plover has been protected by EU law since 1979, because of the important populations in the UK. Any escalation of climate change will put in peril not just the plover but other moorland and peatland species as well."

The paper, published in the journal Oecologia, warns that if climate change predictions prove accurate, golden plovers will be nesting three weeks earlier by 2100. Researchers studied 25-years' worth of data, finding that the first plover chicks now hatch on average nine days earlier than the mid-1980s, because of recent, warmer springs.

While craneflies will adapt to some extent too, they are unlikely to be present in sufficient numbers to sustain the earliest golden plover chicks. Craneflies are abundant on moorland for just two or three weeks.

Almost 75 per cent of the world's moorland - exposed land above 800 ft, often of peat and usually covered by heather - is found in the UK. Britain also holds between ten and 15 per cent of global peat bog.

The RSPB is now to identify which upland species are likely to be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, in a project part-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage. Its scientists will assess data for a wide range of rare and declining species - such as dotterel, curlew and ring ouzel, to address this question.


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Materials provided by University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne. "Upland Birds In Peril From Climate Change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050328182234.htm>.
University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne. (2005, April 4). Upland Birds In Peril From Climate Change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050328182234.htm
University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne. "Upland Birds In Peril From Climate Change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050328182234.htm (accessed July 25, 2024).

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