Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Balearic Shearwater is coming

This is an abstract from Russell et al. (2007) 'Climate-driven range expansion of a critically endangered top predator in northeast Atlantic waters' in Biological Letters published by the Royal Society:

Global climate change is driving rapid distribution shifts in marine ecosystems; these are well established for lower trophic levels, but are harder to quantify for migratory top predators. By analysing a 25-year sightings-based dataset, we found evidence for rapid northwards range expansion of the critically endangered Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus in northeast Atlantic waters. A 0.6°C sea surface temperature increase in the mid-1990s is interpreted as an underlying controlling factor, while simultaneous northward shifts of plankton and prey fish species suggests a strong bottom-up control. Our results have important conservation implications and provide new evidence for climate-driven regime shift in Atlantic ecosystems.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Bieberstein's crocus (Crocus speciosus)

Walking near Uckfield last week I was surprised to find an autumn crocus flourishing in an otherwise very English grass verge by a main road (but some way from the nearest house). The East Sussex flora recorder, Paul Harmes, confirmed it as Crocus speciosus.
This species originates from south west Asia but is naturalised in some places in England. At least it is a bit of an improvement on Japanese knotweed so I hope it survives and expands into a modest colony.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

New report from BRANCH

BRANCH (Biodiversity Requires Adaptation in North West Europe under a CHanging cimate) led by Natural England have just published a report Planning for biodiversity as climate changes.
The authors say "spatial planners are key to providing opportunities for biodiversity to adapt to climate change. But in North West Europe, many of the current policies and planning systems will not meet this challenge. Action is needed now and it must happen at all scales, from the international to the local site level."
At the heart of the report are three case studies of habitat corridors and habitat fragmentation in Hampshire, Kent and The Netherlands.
The report is essential reading for those who want to keep up with current thinking on biodiversity and climate change and on what we should be trying to do about it.
The picture is of sea-pea (Lathyrus japonicus), a plant of coastal shingle, at Rye Harbour. This plant could, according to the report, lose substantial suitable climate space by the end of the century and already appears to be declining at Rye.

Monday, 13 August 2007

West Sussex and climate change

West Sussex County Council has joined a partnership of 10 other organisations from across north-west Europe to look at how to plan for a future with climate change at local, regional, national and European levels.

ESPACE (European Spatial Planning: Adapting to Climate Events) is an ambitious four-year European project that aims to promote an awareness of the importance of adapting to climate change. The County Council is taking a lead role within the ESPACE project in raising awareness of climate change and the need to adapt to it.

As well as developing an awareness campaign for the County, a detailed study is being run on the Manhood Peninsula. This is the low-lying area jutting in to the English Channel with Chichester to the north and Selsey Bill at its southern tip. In association with the Manhood Peninsula Partnership, ESPACE aims to show how adapting to climate change can be achieved through close co-operation with the local community

Across the whole of West Sussex, the ESPACE project will be working to raise awareness of climate change, and of how to adapt to the affects it will have on our lives.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Plants and the ozone effect

Research at the University of Exeter has shown that ground level ozone fogs, which are now increasingly common, can have a damaging effect on vegetation and inhibit its ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

One of the main lessons of this is that there are many things other than carbon dioxide levels that will affect climate change. Just doing something about our carbon footprints is not enough.

The research was undertaken by Stephen Sitch at the University's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and there are further details if you follow this link.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Bats killed by wind turbines

One of the potential conflicts between the generation of 'clean' energy and wildlife conservation is the danger wind farms are presenting to bats. Apparently the risk to bird populations has been overstated, but in some areas many bat deaths have been reported.

For example, nearly 3,000 bats were killed in a six-week period at one wind farm in the USA, and nearly 1,700 were killed over a same period of time at another wind farm.

Now researchers at Aberdeen University believe radar may be key.
They studied the behaviour of bats at radar installations and found they did not forage where electromagnetic radiation could be measured. This presents the possibility of electromagnetic devices being used at wind farms to keep bats away.

There is more on this topic here.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Climate change threat to gardens

The BBC report that "Fields of sunflowers could replace the traditional English landscape. The English country garden is unlikely to survive in the South East beyond the next 100 years, scientists say.

Climate change means the rolling lawns and herbaceous borders of Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and Sussex may be replaced by olive groves and grape vines.

Global warming is being discussed at a Royal Horticultural Society conference at Guildford's University of Surrey.

Experts say summer temperatures in the South East are expected to be up to 3C warmer by 2050 with 35% less rainfall. " More here.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Streams and rivers affected by climate change

Scientists in Wales have identified the devastating effect climate change is having on British waterways, putting snails and crustaceans at risk along with many other tiny creatures. For details see here.
The picture is of the river Dudwell near Burwash Weald.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Herstmonceux heatwave (in April!)

Last month was officially the warmest April since records began in 1659, with temperatures peaking at more than 26C (79F).

The average UK temperature for the month, which takes into account both day and night readings, was 11.2C (52.16F). This broke the previous highest average of 10.6C (51.08F) set in 1865.

The highest individual temperature recorded under standard conditions was 26.5C (79.7F) at Herstmonceux in East Sussex on April 15, according to statistics collated by climatologist Philip Eden.

Monday, 30 April 2007

News for April & May 2007

West Sussex County Council have a section of their web site devoted to climate change.

"For some time I have been convinced that climate change is happening and this past year was delighted to be given the role of Council Sustainability Champion to raise the activity in this area. I am pleased to say that there has been a complete sea change in the council and more generally in public awareness over the past year particularly. Wealden is now starting to move fast in this area." Cllr Rowena Moore, Wealden District Council.

More published climate change material

We have discovered a Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex.

The Shadow Environment Secretary, Gregory Barker MP (Bexhill & Rye) has been talking to the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre. Read all about it here.

The Government has published a new draft climate change bill available here. Have your say.

The Forestry Commission has published a Woodfuel Strategy which plans to boost the supply of environment-friendly woodfuel in order to cut greenhouse gases and power 250,000 homes. See here.

Last year the wildlife trusts in South East England published A Living Landscape for the South East which "maps a way forward in countering climate change and restoring the region's biodiversity." Somehow I missed it! Read it here.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Bugle (Ajuga reptans) nearly 3 weeks early

The plant in the photo above came into flower on 3 May in 2005, 1 May in 2006 and yesterday, 13 April, this year. This is around three weeks earlier than usual (whatever you consider 'usual' to be).

While some of this may be due to the recent warm, sunny weather, the plant has clearly been enjoying the mild winter and spring.

Many insects do, of course, nectar on bugle flowers and, if these are over by the time the insects are on the wing, they could be seriously affected.

Fungi fruiting twice

Alan Gange, a professor of ecology at London University has recently claimed that there is evidence of a warming climate in southern Britain due to the fact that many fungi are now fruiting twice a year (see here).

This is based on 52,000 records collected over a 50 year period by his father Edward Gange, an amateur mycologist.

The paper itself can be found here (if you have a subscription): Gange, A. et al. (2007) Rapid and Recent Changes in Fungal Fruiting Patterns. Science 6 April 2007: 71.

I do rather wonder if this is true. I recall seeing various fungi sending up fruiting bodies quite early in the season and suspect they may always have done so if conditions were right. I suppose one could argue that one's powers of observation and general mycological skill improve with practice so any apparent increase might be partly accounted for by this.

If it is true it will surely have a considerable biotic effect if it continues over a long period of years.

The toadstool in the picture above is the pink meadow cap (Hygrocybe calyptraeformis) photographed in Beauport Park, East Sussex. This, to my knowledge, fruits only in the autumn.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Some books and papers on climate and wildlife change

The following list includes various publications that, in the main, have some bearing on climate change and biodiversity. Many can be downloaded in pdf or other formats. If you come across any other titles worthy of consideration please let us know and we will add them to the list:
  • Coghlan, Andy (2007) Fungi come in from the cold to fruit twice a year. New Scientist 194 (2599) 14 April 2007: 17
  • Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (2007) Draft Climate Change Bill. HMSO, London.
  • English Nature (n.d.) The role of corridors, stepping stones and islands for species conservation in a changing climate. English Nature Research Report 75, parts 1 to 5. English Nature, Peterborough.
  • English Nature et al. (post-2000) Climate Change and Nature. Adapting for the Future. English Nature, Peterborough.
  • Fowler, A. & Brown, V. (1993) Site management and climate. English Nature Research Report 76, parts 1 to 16. English Nature, Peterborough.
  • Gange, A. et al. (2007) Rapid and Recent Changes in Fungal Fruiting Patterns. Science 6 April 2007: 71.
  • Green, R. E., Harley, M., Miles, L., Scharlemann, J., Watkinson, A., & Watts, O. (2003) Global Climate Change and Biodiversity. RSPB, Sandy, Bedfordshire.
  • Green, R. E., Harley, M., Spalding, M. & Zockler, C. eds. (c. 2001) Impacts of climate change on wildlife. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, Bedfordshire.
  • Henson, R. (2006) The Rough Guide to Climate Change. Rough Guides, London. (Highly praised as a good general account of climate change)
  • Hill, M. O., Wright, S. M., Dring, J. C., Firbank, L. G., Manchester, L. J. & Croft, J. M. (1994) The potential for the spread of alien species in England following climatic change. English Nature Research Report 90, parts 1 to 6. English Nature, Peterborough.
  • Harley, M. (2005) Climate change: some key facts and figures. English Nature, Peterborough.
  • Kent Wildlife Trust (2006) A Living Landscape for the south east. The ecological network approach to rebuilding biodiversity for the 21st century. The Wildlife Trusts in the South East.
  • Piper, J. M., Wilson, E. B., Weston, J., Thompson, S. & Glasson, J. (2006) Spatial planning for biodiversity in our changing climate. English Nature Research Report 677. English Nature, Peterborough.
  • Thomas, S. (2007) The UK Phenology Network - enlisting the nature detectives of the future. British Wildlife 18 (4) April 2007: 236-239.
  • Wesche, S. (2003) The implications of climate change for the conservation of beech woodlands and associated flora in the UK. English Nature Research Report 528. English Nature, Peterborough.

Two ‘earliest’ records from Rye Harbour

There was a record of the BAP dotted bee-fly (Bombylius discolor) at Lime Kiln Cottage on the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on 27 March and of a humming-bird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) at the same place the following day.

Both of these are the earliest sightings for these species in that area.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

No more beeches?

Tony Russell, former Head Forester of the National Arboretum at Westonbirt was on BBC's Gardener's Question Time today and suggested that we should all be planting non-native holm oak, sweet chestnut, and walnut etc. rather than beech and other species that might be susceptible to climate change, especially drier conditions.

This is reinforced by the Royal Horticultural Society who say on their web site.
"In the south and east, gardeners should stop planting beech for the long term, either as specimen trees or hedges. Tree of heaven, holm oak and eucalyptus will suit the site better now and are likely to pull through whatever climate change brings."

While it is true that many of our native plants may suffer in hotter, drier weather, I wonder if climate change predictions are really sufficiently robust to prescribe that beeches and other long-lived native species should no longer be planted. Tony Russell pointed out that beeches tend to flourish on thinner, drier soils: maybe they will do better on heavier, wetter soils in the future.

Friday, 23 March 2007

An early dandelion (Taraxacum pseudohamatum)

Yesterday, 22 March, the flower above opened on a plant of Taraxacum pseudohamatum growing in our garden in Sedlescombe, East Sussex.

Last year the first flower on this particular plant did not open until 14 April, so it is running 23 days earlier than in 2006. There are all sorts of reasons why this might be the case and I somehow doubt that it has anything to do with long-term climate change. Maybe, for example, it was responding to conditions last autumn, maybe dandelions flower earlier as the plants get older, maybe it has, or has not, been suffering from the attentions of some predator above or below ground.

Taraxacologists might like to note that I have identified this dandelion microspecies using the BSBI's Handbook The Dandelions of Great Britain and Ireland by Dudman and Richards (2000 edition). Hours of endless fun there.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi)

See post below.

Is it climate change?

What species would you choose to monitor climate change?

The question is frequently asked but, as the discussion develops, people seem less and less sure that an increase or a decline of taxon x or y has anything to do with climate change at all, either directly or indirectly.

So, we want to hear from you as to the species common or rare you might (we stress might) monitor on a long-term basis to see if their fortunes had anything to do with global warming, or cooling, increased storms, tidal surges and so forth.

Does the arrival and northward spread of the wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) have anything to do with warmer summers, milder winters, an increase in grasshoppers, or did it simply hitch a ride across the Channel and spread across England just because it is here?

The first UK record for this species was from Rye in East Sussex in 1922, so it has taken a long time to get going. But maybe it has been introduced more than once and it is only the more recent arrivals that have managed to spread. Is this likely to have anything to do with climate change or not? And if it is, how can we prove it?