Climate change and biodiversity

The coasts of Normandy and South West England include habitats rich in species, but climate change will continue to have an increasing impact on the biodiversity of our coasts. In the future, the predicted rise in sea levels will reduce the mix of habitats in coastal areas available to different species. For example, where salt marsh or mud flat is trapped between rising sea levels and sea walls  their overall area will be reduced because they can not migrate inland – a process known as coastal squeeze.  This could mean a decline in the types and number of different species of plants and animals which make the coast their home.

The loss of these habitats could have a knock on effect for people as they often play a role in helping to limit erosion and flooding. Areas of salt marsh for example act as natural flood defences by absorbing energy from waves and reducing their impact on man made coastal defences that might sit behind them.

It is predicted that more than half the common plant species and one third of animals could see a dramatic decline due to climate change affecting where they can survive.

In the Sea:

  • The sea around the UK is already 0.7 degree C warmer on average than in 1980. This causes the distribution of fish species to move northwards to escape warmer waters, so that different more exotic species are being caught locally.
  • Marine animals are highly sensitive to temperature change and we are seeing different species in the oceans surrounding the UK, but an increase in certain fish numbers
  • More turbulent conditions arising from increased storms may affect the efficiency of the local fishing industry. This may particularly affect Mussel beds if they lose  shelter and good water quality

On land:

  • We are seeing later arrival of migratory bird species to wetland sites in the UK and increases in adverse weather is  challenging migratory birds along their routes
  • As the distribution of species changes to adapt to warmer temperatures this may mean that new, non-native species are seen and become more common