Global warming and habit loss becoming 'too much' for English butterflies and birds

Speckled wood butterflies (L) and willow warblers (R) are both said to be struggling due to global warming and habitat loss. Credit: PA

Butterflies and birds in England are being hit by a combination of climate change and habitat loss that could see species vanishing from some areas, scientists have warned.

Some butterflies that enjoy warmer conditions, such as the speckled wood, have migrated north, cold-loving insects are not faring well, it is claimed.

Meanwhile, a number of cold-climate birds - including the meadow pipit, willow tit and willow warbler - have already been lost from locations where they once thrived, experts have said.

Experts claim willow warblers have already disappeared from some locations. Credit: PA

Modern farming methods have led to widespread loss of natural habitats, forcing both birds and butterflies to find new homes.

But climate change means that not all species can easily re-locate, said the researchers, who analysed four decades-worth of bird and butterfly records from more than 600 English monitoring sites.

Natural England climate change specialist Dr Mike Morecroft stressed the importance of using land management to support wildlife.

"Working together to create larger natural areas in strategic places will help species to cope with a changing climate", he said.

Changes to farming methods have led to the loss of many natural habitats. Credit: PA

Dr Tom Brereton, from Butterfly Conservation, said: "Intensive land use means fewer resources and micro-climates that allow species to persist in unfavourable weather conditions.

He told ITV News: "Butterflies are able to use a wide range of habits in response to the climate, but there is a limit to how much they can adapt.

"The changes we are experiencing appear to be too much and both butterflies and birds are struggling."

Dr Simon Gillings, head of bird population monitoring at the British Trust for Ornithology, added:"Loss and degradation of habitats, whether in farmland, grasslands or uplands, are primary factors in reducing key resources for birds, leading to population declines.

"Intensive management is making it harder for cold-associated birds to find cool corners of sites, or to disperse away from warming regions, thereby exacerbating the effects of climate warming."

The new findings have been published in the journal Global Change Biology. Credit: PA

Lead investigator Dr Tom Oliver, from the University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences, said: "There is a clear signature of climate change on our country's wildlife, and for many species the situation is worse where the landscape is dominated by arable land and intensively managed grasslands.

"Bird communities are struggling to successfully adapt to the warming we've had over recent decades.

"Although butterflies are coping much better, in both cases a lack of natural habitat in our landscapes is putting cold-associated species between a rock and a hard place by limiting their ability to find resources and survive."