The UK should use its presidency of the G8 and EU to move forward international action to analyse future risks due to climate change and develop and implement evidence-based adaptation strategies for coping with the immediate impacts of climate change, the British Ecological Society has urged. Giving evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday 8 December 2004, Professor Alastair Fitter of York University and president of the British Ecological Society told the committee: “The current rate of anthropogenic climate change is exceptional and will have numerous impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, interacting with other anthropogenic changes such as invasive species, habitat fragmentation, and nitrogen deposition to create synergistic effects.”
According to Professor Fitter, ecologists are already detecting the effects of climate change. “Between 1972 and 1999, British bird species extended their breeding ranges north by an average of 18.9 km in response to increasing mean annual temperatures at the northern end of their distribution. Hawthorn and hornbeam are coming into leaf earlier, and most spring-flowering plant species are flowering earlier – typically by around two weeks compared to pre-1990 means,” Professor Fitter explained.
Professor Fitter stressed that adaptation strategies must be based on the best available scientific evidence, and that to be successful their implementation will require much closer dialogue between scientists and policy makers. “New research is urgently needed on the impact of climate change on ecological systems, especially in relation to synergies with other threats to biodiversity, such as invasive species and habitat fragmentation, and to the integration of the natural and social science approaches to climate change impacts. A close dialogue needs to be developed between scientists and policy makers with regards to impacts and adaptation strategies.
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