All UK habitats are set to be severely challenged by climate change exposure in the coming years, but some face greater challenges than others, according to a bag A paper written by a researcher at the University of York.
The study of Journal of Applied Ecologycombines data on past and future UK climate, current land cover, and ecological monitoring sites.
The results show how far human-driven climate change has shifted conditions from their state at the start of the 20th century—and how much more change may be stored in the coming decades.
The research also highlights the value of habitat monitoring initiatives for tracking the effects of these environmental changes in the UK.
Exposure to climate change
The authors say that in each successive multi-year period studied “the exposure to climate change in the UK has increased significantly: the changes from the previous decade to 2021 –2040 is predicted to be greater than during the 20th Century.”
Human-driven climate change is likely to fall hardest on arable and horticultural soils, chalk grasslands, and urban and suburban areas.
According to the findings, chalk grasslands are the most exposed semi-natural habitats (as well as the most exposed of all between 2021–2040 and 2061–2080).
Vulnerability of grass
Plantlife highlights the value and vulnerability of all grasslands; Other research shows that a staggering 97% of wildflower meadows and 80% of chalk grasslands have been lost since the 1940s, and now make up less than 1% of UK land. Of the remaining 3%, 75% are in small fragments that make them more fragile.
The paper shows that climate change affects the UK unevenly: “Regionally, it falls more in the south, central and eastern England; locally, it is greater in locations that are higher than in neighboring lower level areas.” In a worst-case scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, much of England could experience Mediterranean-type climate conditions—with hotter, drier summers—by 2061-2080.
Threat to wild plants
Warming temperatures have seen some wild plant species such as the Lizard orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum), Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) expand further north in their range.
Some rare arctic-alpine plants including Norwegian Mugwort (Artemisia norvegica), Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica), and Mountain Sandwort (Sabulina rubella) are at risk of extinction in Britain as mountains become more temperate.
Dr. Oliver Wilson, report author, from the University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography and Plantlife, said, “In the face of climate change, many plant populations need to move to survive, but that is becoming difficult with human activity. such as construction pressures. Intact habitats and wildlife corridors—from hedgerows to roadsides—offer lifelines to climate migrant species so they must be effectively managed.”
Habitat monitoring programs are essential to understanding how our habitats and species are responding to their changing conditions. The study examined four of the UK’s world-leading ecological monitoring schemes—the rolling Countryside Survey, the National Plant Monitoring Scheme, the Long-Term Monitoring Network, and the Environmental Change Network—and found that each delivered important contribution to our understanding.
Dr. Oliver Pescott, author of the report, from the UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “Climate change is one of the biggest drivers of ecological change in the coming decades. Sites that regularly monitored through schemes such as NPMS provide us with vital data on changing habitats in the UK, and the findings of this study are important for helping us to understand how these change in the wider environment across the country.
Oliver J. Wilson et al, Assessing the exposure of UK habitats to climate change in the 20th and 21st centuries, and its representation in ecological monitoring methods, Journal of Applied Ecology (2023). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.14455
Provided by the University of York
Citation: UK habitats vulnerable to climate change exposure—but some more than others (2023, July 18) retrieved 18 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023- 07-uk-habitats-impacted-exposure-climate.html
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