Adverse impacts of climate change are already affecting migratory species
Climate change is having direct adverse effects on many migratory species and their ability to provide vital ecosystem services to humanity, according to a major report published at the UN Climate Change conference (UNFCCC CoP28) in Dubai today (Sunday 10 December 2023).
‘Climate change and migratory species: a review of impacts, conservation actions, indicators and ecosystem services’ brings together recent scientific evidence on the impacts of climate change on migratory species and their habitats, conservation interventions to support migratory species in the face of climate change, and ways in which migratory species can facilitate climate change adaptation and mitigation. The report calls for urgent action to help vulnerable migratory species adapt to a changing climate.
The report was commissioned by Defra through JNCC as a significant contribution to the work of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), and prepared by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
Climate change driven temperature increases, changes in habitat and water availability, variation in oceanic currents, and extreme weather events such as wildfires, are significantly impacting migratory species globally. Direct effects are already being seen, including changes to the migratory routes used, changes in the timing of migration and breeding, and reduced reproductive success and survival. These impacts on migratory species have the potential to disrupt ecosystem functions and cohesion globally.
Migratory species provide many benefits for humans, including a source of nutrition, economic development, and services such as pollination, seed dispersal and pest control. Importantly, they also help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and increase climate change resilience. Examples include whales which can store vast amounts of carbon in their bodies and antelopes which can reduce the risk of wildfires through their grazing patterns. The conservation of migratory species and their habitats is therefore an important part of the solution to both the biodiversity and climate change crises.
The report includes recommendations for policy makers, and demonstrates the case for the delivery of nature-based solutions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Global conservation actions, such as the establishment of well-connected protected areas, are needed to support migratory species adapt to a changing climate. Robust monitoring and information sharing is also necessary to understand the success of any interventions and to inform future actions.