Contact the Bridport News with your stories, pictures and video footage. Send us an email
COUNTRY NEWS: Coastline changes put species at risk
COASTAL erosion and climate change are putting some species at risk, warns the National Trust.
The trust has unveiled a list of the six species it feels will be particularly affected around the constantly changing coastline.
Research shows how an increasingly dynamic and changing coastline could radically change the face of wildlife on the coast in the coming decades. The next century will see rising sea levels with the 8,050 miles of UK coastline going through a process of accelerated and immense change, it says.
David Bullock, head of nature conservation at the National Trust said: “Increasingly extreme weather events will potentially lead to huge turmoil for wildlife along this much-loved habitat where millions of us spend the summer months.
“The coast is at the forefront of how a changing climate will affect wildlife in the UK and is very vulnerable to the forces of change. “Over the past decade we’ve been developing a better understanding of the coastline that we care for and in particular the 50 per cent that will be affected by increased coastal erosion or flooding in the future. “Our six coastal ‘canaries in the mine’ indicate how plants, animals and ourselves will have to live with an increasing rate of environmental change.”
The coastline is already being affected by rising sea levels and projections suggest that by 2100 sea levels will be more than half a metre higher than at present and increased erosion, with the British Geological Survey reporting a four-to-five-fold increase in the number of landslides during July and December 2012 in comparison with previous years.
But warming seas and the increased unpredictability of weather could also have a radical impact on coastal habitats and wildlife. Matthew Oates, the trust’s national specialist on nature and wildlife, added: “Climate change could change the face of our coastal flora and fauna. “With rising sea levels, our rich mud flats could simply disappear.
“Wildlife which relies on the gradual erosion of soft rock cliffs or lives on loose sand and shingle habitats could be caught out by an increasingly mobile landscape as a result of extremes in weather.
“Extreme weather will be a big factor. We’re seeing more and more superlatives – the hottest, coldest, wettest or driest months on record. Even on hard rock cliffs less affected by increased erosion, we are likely to see the boom and bust of more specialist plants and animals, as they suffer from increased flooding, salt deposition or drought stress.
“Unfortunately there may be more bust than boom.”
Species to watch include the cliff tiger beetle. Although it is a hunter, the cliff tiger beetle depends on a very specific habitat. It relies on relatively large areas of bare clay being exposed through cliff slumps and slippages, living beside wet seepages along the bare cliff face.
Two of its greatest threats are coastal development and the overstabilisation of soft cliffs, whether natural or human induced. And the increased mobility of cliffs this spring followed by hot weather this July has helped it.
It is vulnerable to catastrophic events in the few places that it does survive. Like many insects, the cliff tiger beetle lacks the ability to move if conditions suddenly become unfavourable. It is only capable of short flights, so if it is lost from an area it may be difficult for it to recolonise.
These beetles live on coastal cliffs on National Trust land in West Dorset.
Due to the recent mobility of cliffs on the Dorset coast, the trust strongly recommend people do not put themselves at risk looking for cliff tiger beetles. The stability of a cliff face can be deceptive, and remember that the cliff tiger beetle relies on a degree of coastal instability to survive.
The others on the at-risk list are the Little Tern, Puffin, left, Oysterplant, Triggerfish and Glanville fritillary butterfly, below.