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Global warming affecting European birds

by Alan Harten
March 5, 2009

A group of scientists from Cambridge and Durham Universities, collaborating with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), has established a strong connection between changes in the climate and differing populations of various species and their forecast spread in the future.

This affects various prevalent and well-known European birds, including the lesser spotted woodpecker and the goldfinch.

A minority of birds will prosper as temperatures increases, but generally numbers are falling said a spokesman for the RSPB, which participated in the study.

Using data from across Europe, the group, together with other similar European organisations, has put together an indicator to plot the effect that global warming is having on European wildlife.

The EU has taken the indicator on board as a measure of the impacts of climate change on the continent’s wildlife.

Durham University’s Dr Stephen Willis said that constant yearly average temperatures ended in the early ‘80s.

He said that global warming is affecting numerous species differently with many birds experiencing a harmful effect, but some gaining from the changes.

The concern is that the falling species comprise 75 per cent of the species looked at.

A strong connection between the changing numbers of bird over the last 20 years and the predicted variation in ranges was established by the study.

Global warming is believed to be the cause.

Of the 122 bird types studied, 30 are expected to enlarge their range, while the other 92 are likely to undergo a reduction.

Dr Richard Gregory of the RSPB said that the paper shows that the effects of global warming are already happening.

The balance between species adversely affected and those that could gain is against by three to one.

A small actual rise in average temperatures results in mind-boggling changes to wildlife numbers.

If we do not cut greenhouse gas emissions right now, our indicator presents many contrary effects ahead.

The increase in world temperature must stay below two degrees; higher levels will generate worldwide chaos

Birds rarely seen in the UK, such as the great reed warbler, the bee-eater, the Cirl bunting and the subalpine warbler, could populate far more areas of the country.

The RSPB has warned that the Scottish crossbill, already found only in the pine forests of Scotland may become extinct.

The birds in Europe faring the worst are: thrush nightingale, snipe, lapwing, wood warbler, brambling, nutcracker, lesser spotted woodpecker, northern wheatear, willow tit and meadow pipit.

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