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    8 Ways Animals Are Already Being Affected By Climate Change In The UK

    As the UK's climate changes, animals are having to adapt to survive. Some of them are better at it than others.

    1. Butterflies

    Quartl / Creative Commons / Via

    According to a 2010 report from the Inter-agency Climate Change Forum, as temperatures have increased, the habitats of the comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album, above) and Essex skipper (Thymelicus lineola) have moved northwards. The British comma has already moved 220km northwards from central England to Edinburgh in just two decades, according to a study published in the journal Science.

    We've also lost some populations of more northerly species such as the mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron), and Brown argus butterflies (Aricia agestis, below) are also threatened.

    Hectonichus / Creative Commons
    Hectonichus / Creative Commons

    2. Golden plover

    Bjørn Christian Tørrissen / Via

    Golden plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) are wading birds. During breeding season, in spring and summer, their bellies and necks turn black and they pair up, making nests on the ground and caring for chicks once they hatch.

    But hotter summers mean fewer crane flies, which are a key prey for golden plover chicks. An increase in temperatures has also led golden plovers to lay their eggs earlier. There's a risk that if temperatures keep rising, the golden plover could become extinct in some sites within the next 100 years.

    3. Bees

    Getty Images/iStockphoto ShaunWilkinson

    Bees, like other pollinators, are vital for agriculture and maintaining biodiversity. Basically, we're screwed without them.

    Sadly, honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations are in severe decline. Most of the decline is due to habitat loss, but climate change is the second-biggest threat to pollinators.

    4. Kittiwakes

    Mmo iwdg / Creative Commons / Via Wikimedia Commons

    It's not just rising temperatures that affect animals. Climate-driven changes in the food chain have affected breeding seabirds like the kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) on the North Sea coast. Warmer sea-surface temperatures have been linked to fewer sand eels, which are food for kittiwakes and other seabirds, including the common guillemot.

    Kittiwakes breed on the coast during spring and summer and then spend the winter out in the Atlantic, before returning to their breeding grounds in February. According to two studies, one from 2004 and one from 2007, kittiwakes have not been as successful at breeding in recent years.

    Getty Images/iStockphoto KristianBell

    5. Dormice

    Danielle Schwarz / Creative Commons / Via

    Changes in climate also seem to be affecting the winter hibernation periods of some mammals in the UK, including dormice. During hibernation, mammals cool down, and their heart rate, breathing, and metabolism all slow down.

    But warmer winters mean that dormice, including the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius, above) and the edible dormouse (Glis glis, below), can't effectively suppress their metabolism, and that could lead to them using up their fat stores before they reach the end of the hibernation period.

    Getty Images/iStockphoto reptiles4all

    Edible dormice were only introduced to England in 1902, and mostly live in the Chilterns area. As temperatures have risen, edible dormice have been emerging earlier from hibernation by an average of eight days per decade, according to a study published in the Journal of Zoology and based on data from the Czech Republic.

    6. Hedgehogs

    Getty Images/iStockphoto Kichigin

    UK hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) numbers have declined from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to about 1.5 million in 1995, and have probably fallen since then too, according to a report by the British Trust for Ornithology.

    Climate change is not the main culprit for the decline; habitat loss, road accidents, and badgers are all bigger threats. But warmer winters are disrupting their hibernation. And drier springs mean fewer earthworms for them to eat, according to a report commissioned by the People's Trust for Endangered Species.

    mouse_sonya / Thinkstock
    Getty Images/iStockphoto Maciej Roszkowski

    7. Badgers

    Getty Images/iStockphoto KristianBell

    Badgers (Meles meles) need earthworms, too, and are affected by drier springs that mean fewer of them are around. But badger winter survival rates have generally improved in recent decades, thanks to milder weather.

    One surprising way in which climate change has affected badgers is that warmer conditions during the peak February breeding season have led to higher rates of road traffic accidents, according to a 2010 study. It seems that warmer conditions tempt badgers to explore further than they otherwise would.

    8. Red deer

    Getty Images/iStockphoto MikeLane45

    The milder, wetter winters we're expected to experience thanks to climate change should benefit red deer (Cervus elaphus). One study of red deer on the Isle of Rum off the west coast of Scotland shows climate change has brought forward several life events, including the breeding season, which all advanced by between five and 12 days across a 28-year study period.

    But a 1997 study showed that deer born after warmer winters were smaller than those born after colder winters.

    Getty Images/iStockphoto sergei-k

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