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Climate Change and Wildlife
World Wide Fund for Nature, December 2, 1997

As governments around the world meet in Kyoto to hammer out an international agreement on climate change, evidence from Britain shows that many bird species - including redshank, wren, chaffinch and chiffchaff - are now breeding earlier than ever. Frogs, toads and newts are also arriving at ponds earlier to spawn. Wildlife worldwide is being affected by climate change, and without immediate action the impacts will increase. These are among the findings contained in Climate Change and Wildlife, a major new report from WWF and BirdLife International. It is based on the findings of international experts and evaluates growing scientific evidence for what is currently happening to wildlife as a result of a warmer world. It details both observed and predicted changes and focuses on migration strategies, the timing of life cycles, the distribution and population of species, and important wildlife sites.

Changes to sea temperatures, says the report, will affect food supplies for seabirds such as the Arctic tern and puffin - and the dotterel and snow bunting could decline or even disappear as their specialised habitat vanishes as a result of climate change. Migrating birds often rely on traditional stopping-off places such as coastal wetlands. But sea level rises could lead to the disappearance of many vital coastal areas - which in turn will cause changes in migration routes and fewer birds surviving the long journeys. The report emphasises the need for increased co-ordination between scientific disciplines such as climatology and ecology; and it calls for long-term monitoring of flora and fauna on a worldwide basis. Callum Rankine, WWF's habitats and species officer, commented: "The very fact that we are predicting these results is extremely worrying. For many people, the huge number of waders wintering on our estuaries epitomises the very essence of the natural world. To lose them would be a catastrophe, and the proven dangers of climate change can neither be denied nor over-estimated."