Climate change

Wren (John Harding)

 Wren (John Harding)

Climate change has been widely cited as one of the most significant threats to biodiversity whose impact is projected to be increasingly severe during the course of this century. It is important to gather evidence to assess the validity of these projections and determine the extent to which species and populations are responding to climate change now. This information can then be used to inform policies and management strategies to reduce the severity of such impacts on populations in the future (termed adaptation). If you would like to find out more, a series of short review articles on the topic of climate change and birds are being written for  BTO News, and will be made available below as they are published:

  • When Spring has Sprung (PDF, 765.71 KB)
    . A review of changes in the timing of migration and breeding.
  • Highs & Lows. (PDF, 181.33 KB)
    The evidence for climate change having caused changes to bird populations. 
  • How bad can it get? (PDF, 322.17 KB)
    Potential future impacts of climate change on bird populations. 
  • Armed for change. (PDF, 258.66 KB)
    How conservationists can respond to climate change

BTO research on climate change can be divided into three areas:

Climate change is affecting our birdlife. Changes in summer and winter conditions may differentially affect breeding success and mortality, leading to changes in abundance. BTO nest record, ringing and survey data are at the heart of being able to understand these changes, and we are currently working on a range of projects attempting to do this. It is only through understanding such changes that we are able to best make predictions about the future, and then consider what can be done by way of adaptation in order to counteract any loss. Research on golden plovers provides an example of how these different strands may fit together.

For further information please contact James Pearce-Higgins

Recent research on Climate Change

Whinchat, by Edmund Fellowes

Crossing barriers: does flexibility provide resilience in a changing world?

Migratory barriers, such as the Sahara Desert, are thought to present a challenge to small migrant birds like Whinchat, but how much do we really know about the strategies these birds use when crossing barriers and can these strategies provide resilience to future changes in barrier width that might arise from changes in climate and land-use?
Blue Tit nest with eggs by Moss Taylor

Caterpillars and caterpillar-eating birds: out of synch in space and time?

The increasing temperatures associated with a changing climate may disrupt ecological systems, including by affecting the timing of key events. If events within different trophic levels are affected in different ways then this can lead to what is known as trophic mismatch. But what is the evidence for trophic mismatch, and are there spatial or temporal patterns within the UK that might point to mismatch as a driver of regional declines in key insect-eating birds?
What's Under Your Feet

What's Under Your Feet?

A new study, supported by EDF Energy and BTO, has looked into soil invertebrate communities in the UK using large-scale citizen science data from schools.