Recent studies have questioned just how fast animals can evolve to different climatic conditions and whether the speed of evolutionary change is in fact outstripped by the rate of global warming. Scientists have warned that Britain’s changing climate is prompting the free fall decline of some wildlife.
However, whilst some species struggle, others are flourishing. 40 of Britain’s top scientists carried out a report which claimed that the extreme weather conditions, climate change and urbanisation of modern Britain has created some of the worst environments for wildlife in history.
According to the RSPB, the bird population has fallen from 210 million to 166 million in the last 50 years. Since the 1960s, Britain has lost 44 million birds. It’s not all bad news though as we currently have more species of bird breeding in the UK than ever before. Their numbers have reduced by there is certainly a far greater diversity in the birds that can be found in Britain now.
Birdlife Populations are Flourishing
There are 246 species of birds that are native to Britain and of those, one fifth has lost half of their population, though others have flourished. To put this into perspective, since 1970 the population of great spotted woodpeckers has risen by 368%. Figures for collared doves are up by 333% to 990,000.
The red kite population which was near to extinction in 1970 has risen by 572%. The introduction of new laws in the EU in the 80s saw very strong protection laws put into place. The RSPB says that we have a responsibility as a nation to keep our diverse birdlife alive. The increase in some bird populations is not just down to survival of the fittest but due to a combination of climate change and huge conservation efforts. There is extensive data available for birdlife in Britain but mammals are lesser loved as fewer people think to report sightings of the likes of rats or foxes.
The Mammal Society is currently working on the first empirical national study of mammals in 25 years. It has said however that the number of otters in Britain has doubled in the last 25 years, bringing the figure to an estimated population of 12,000. The legal movement which protected them from being hunted in the 1981 and huge conservation efforts has seen their revival. The same laws also saw the revival of the polecat. The population was almost wiped out due to hunting. The Mammal Society went on to say that Britain is home to the only thriving population of badgers in Europe.
Many other countries are still allowed to hunt badgers but this could all change now that David Cameron has backed the badger cull. Whilst there are no official studies to confirm, there is said to be a rise in the population of foxes in the Britain. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has estimated that there are currently 240,000 adult foxes during spring time, to which 425,000 cubs are added every year. Add to this the fact that gamekeepers probably kill on average 80,000 a year and that in urban areas many foxes may be killed by road traffic.
Many Bat Species are Stable or Increasing…
Some species of bats are reportedly growing in numbers thanks to conservation efforts and climate change. The latest reports suggest that 11 of the 18 species of bats in the UK are stable or increasing. Prior to the legal changes which were made in 1981, bat roosts were regularly smoked out of houses, destroyed by developments and climate change but now there are strict laws in place which mean that bats and their roosts must be considered before any planning permission is approved. The Mammal Society is calling on the public to report any sightings of mammals, big or small. As it stands there is no co-ordinated effort to find figures for rats for example and so the general public are being asked to report every mammal sighting – even mice.