From puffins to bumblebees and one of world's favourite coffee plants: The 12 species at risk from global warming

In the UK, puffins, mountain hares, bumblebees and bluebells are all under threat as temperatures rise. Credit: PA

Mountain hares, puffins, bumblebees and even coffee plants that produce one of the world's favourite brews are among the species under threat as temperatures rise across the world.

A report by the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) warns that climate change is increasing the frequency of heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires, creating conditions that many species cannot cope with.

In the UK, these species include puffins, mountain hares, bumblebees and bluebells.

Mike Barrett, WWF executive director of science and conservation, said: “This isn’t a far-off threat – the impacts of climate change are already being felt, and if we don’t act now to keep global warming to 1.5C, we will slide faster and faster towards catastrophe.”

The charity is calling on world leaders meeting for Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are cut and curb global temperature rises to 1.5C.

The report said temperatures are already 1C above levels before the industrial revolution, and the world is on track for temperature rises of 2.4C.

And global wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 68% since 1970.

These are the 12 species in the UK and around the world that are in danger from global warming, according to the WWF's Feeling the Heat report:

Atlantic puffins

The “clowns of the sea” that nest around the UK’s coasts are seeing severe declines due to global warming and existing threats such fishing.

More severe and frequent storms are hitting the seabirds, their nests and eggs. And rising sea temperatures are affecting the food chain and leading to fewer sand eels, which the puffins feed their young.

A mountain Hare in the Cairngorms in Scotland Credit: Andrew Parkinson/PA

Mountain hares

The UK’s only native hares live in the Scottish Highlands, displaying a brown coat in summer that blends in with the landscape and a white coat in winter to camouflage them in the snow.

But snow cover in the Highlands has declined by more than 37 days on average between 1960 and 2016, leaving them wearing a striking white coat against a snowless background that puts them at more risk from predators.


The native flowers grow and flower in spring before the woodland floor is shaded over as tree leaves grow.

But warmer temperatures are shifting when plants are flowering and putting out leaves, and if bluebells cannot time their growth to coincide with the open canopy they may not survive.

The flowers could also be affected by spring droughts.

Bumblebees are at risk of overheating Credit: Ola Jennersten/WWF-Sweden/PA


The important pollinators can thrive in cold climates as they generate heat while flying and their fuzzy bodies provide a warm coat.

But it also means they are susceptible to overheating. Some bees have already moved to cooler regions, but the areas they can spread to are getting smaller and smaller.

Emperor penguin adults and chick Credit: Fritz Pölking/WWF/PA

Emperor penguins

The largest penguin species requires stable, thick ice for at least nine months of the year to rear their young and replace their feathers in the annual moult, as well as gaps in the ice to access feeding grounds.

But rising temperatures are expected to lead to loss of Antarctic sea ice. All known colonies are set to decline – and most could become “quasi-extinct” by 2100 – if emissions continue rising as they are today, the WWF said.

Snow leopards

Snow leopards are adapted to harsh, cold conditions in the mountains of central and south Asia, but warming temperatures are projected to reduce the snow leopard’s habitat by 23% by 2070.

The tree line is projected to shift to higher altitudes, making the landscape less suitable for the leopard’s prey.

Other predators such as wolves could also be brought into the landscape and people and livestock could move into their habitat.

The gender of leatherback turtles is affected by the temperature of the sand the eggs are in Credit: Eaton/WWF/PA

Leatherback turtle

The gender of marine turtles such as the leatherback, the largest species, is determined by the temperature of the sand on beaches where the eggs are laid. Hotter temperatures lead to higher numbers of females.

This disparity could threaten the survival of turtles. If temperatures rise too much, eggs could be danger of not hatching at all.

Rising sea levels and increased storms could also wash away nests and destroy nesting beaches.

Darwin’s frog

The frogs, named after Charles Darwin who first encountered them in 1834, are losing their temperate forest and wetland habitat in Chile and Argentina. Global warming is also making conditions favourable for the spread of the deadly Chytrid fungal disease.

Staghorn coral with damselfish on the coral reef in Cordelia Bank off Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras, Central America Credit: Antonio Busiello/WWF-US/PA

Warm-water coral reefs

Due to carbon emissions, corals are increasingly at risk from increased acidity and warming oceans – which leads to coral bleaching and potentially death.

Even if temperature rises are limited to 1.5C, there is likely to be 70%-90% declines in these corals by 2050. But at warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels, 99% will be lost, scientists warn.

Researchers have identified 50 resilient areas with the best chance of surviving, but they need temperature rises to be curbed to 1.5C to survive, WWF says.

A hippopotamus female and her calf submerged in a lily-covered pool in Kenya Credit: Shah/WWF/PA


Climate change is adding to the existing threats faced by hippos which live in rivers, lakes and wetlands in sub-Saharan Africa, such as river dams, agriculture, and hunting.

Rising temperatures, long droughts and erratic rainfall are reducing water levels and quality. Hippos are not well adapted to high temperatures out of water, making them vulnerable to drought conditions. Water scarcity also increases conflict with humans.

Arabica coffee

This species of coffee accounts for around 60% of global production of the much-loved drink, and thrives at annual temperatures of around 18C-22C (64.4F-71.6F), but does not cope well with warming conditions, low or unpredictable rainfall and extreme weather.

The amount of land suitable for its production could drop significantly, the wild species that it comes from in Ethiopia is threatened by climate change, and higher temperatures make the coffee plants vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Black-headed squirrel monkey

This monkey is found in just an area of 336 square miles (870 square kilometres) of floodplain forest in the Brazilian Amazon.

Its home is expected disappear completely due to the combination of increased water levels, higher temperatures and extreme flooding.

The report said the future of this and other Amazon primates depends on protecting wildlife corridors that allow them to move to new homes, and urgent action to limit temperature rises to give them time to adapt to the changing conditions.