Water birds face death as warming sinks mudflats

A A A

Hundreds of thousands of much-loved British water birds face being wiped out by the effects of global warming, conservationists warn.

Hundreds of thousands of much-loved British water birds face being wiped out by the effects of global warming, conservationists warn.

Every autumn more than a million dunlins, knots and Brent geese arrive from the Arctic to overwinter at coastal salt marshes, estuaries and other wetlands in Britain, amassing in spectacular flocks of up to 250,000 birds. But the latest analysis, from scientists in Cambridge, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, predicts these birds could suffer a dramatic decline over the next 50 years.

The scientists' most conservative predictions are based on global temperatures rising by 1.7C – an increase expected to take place because of the existing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

But in the worst case for Brent geese – nearly 140,000 nest in Britain – up to 44 per cent of their breeding grounds in the Arctic will be lost as permafrost melts and warmer temperatures lead to forests spreading northwards.

The red knot could lose 33 per cent of its breeding grounds in Canada and Greenland, leading to a decline in the UK's population of 100,000. Its nesting sites in Britain are also under threat, as mudflats, such as those of the Thames and Ribble, vanish through sea-level rises. At least 10 per cent of coastal mudflats are under direct threat, the RSPB says.

Sea-level rises, affecting salt marshes, will also damage the dunlin, likely to face a 36 per cent decline. About 80 hectares of salt marsh are already lost each year: over the next 50 years over 10 per cent of Britain's 40,000 hectares of salt marsh may be lost to the sea, even if carbon dioxide emissions stay at current levels.

The warnings were issued to coincide with the latest international talks on implementing the Kyoto Protocol, taking place this week in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation, said environmentalists feared a dilution of the protocol's provisions, and stringent measures were needed to stop climate change becoming a "complete disaster".

Dr Christoph Zockler, co-author of a report on the threat to Arctic water birds, said some species could adapt, but most, especially the knot, were in great danger. "They've demonstrated very little flexibility, so we're afraid that they will be pushed to the edge."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests