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The climate has a major influence on the character and functioning of the natural environment, and as our climate changes wildlife is being affected in many ways.
The earlier onset of spring means that many species come out of hibernation earlier, before their prey may be available; heavy rains can reduce butterfly and bee numbers, with knock-on effects for habitats because of reduced pollination.
As much as people, wildlife too needs to be able to adapt to the effects of climate change:
- Species distributions are likely to move northwards as favourable climatic conditions shift. Species needing cooler, wetter locations may be lo
- The timing of seasonal events is likely to change as wildlife responds to ecological “mismatches”. For example, warmer temperatures will encourage earlier hatching of birds, but this may not coincide with peak populations of insects which they need to eat.
- Extreme weather events, such as severe storms and heatwaves, are likely to have significant effects on species populations, particularly if these types of weather events become more common.
- The way in which species interact with each other will change, which is likely to lead to changes in the types of plant and animal communities that we are familiar with today. For example, tree species which come into leaf earlier will have a competitive advantage by shading out those which produce leaves later; this could create woodlands with a significantly different character to those of today.
- Changes in farming, forestry and other land management activities are likely to occur in response to climate change, and these may have knock on effects for wildlife.
Wildlife’s ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change will depend on how easily species can move through the landscape to reach new suitable habitat. The Council and its partners Natural England, Environment Agency, Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission have an important role to play ensuring important habitats are protected; new areas for wildlife are created and fragmented habitats are joined up and ecological networks enhanced.
Some examples of this are:
Planning policy – UDP, Nature Conservation Strategy - policies to ensure that important wildlife sites (SSSIs, SINCs and SLINCs) are protected from development; open space/wildlife corridors are protected and not fragmented; restrict development in floodplain and encourage opening up and naturalisation of water courses. Emerging Core Strategy will build on existing policies to continue this approach.
- Local Biodiversity Action Plan – BCC is a member of the Birmingham and Black Country Biodiversity Partnership. Revised Local Biodiversity Action Plan identifies how we need to take action at a landscape-scale across Birmingham and the Black Country to help biodiversity adapt to the impacts of climate change. Part of this approach is to produce local opportunity maps which identify opportunities for habitat restoration, expansion and creation by highlighting gaps in the ecological network and attempting to link up key wildlife sites via corridors and stepping stones. The aim of this approach is to create a connected network of habitats which enable wildlife to move through migrate and adapt to climate change.
- Positive management of important wildlife sites (Sutton Park SSSI, Country Parks Woodgate Valley, The Shire, Kingfisher, Sheldon etc) – by Parks/Ranger Service and other organisations.
- River restoration – SMURF project –Perry Hall playing fields; Spark Brook; proposed River Rea de-culverting through Longbridge
- Green roofs secured through planning process – ICC, Fire and Rescue Service HQ