Blackgrouse could disappear from the UK?s landscape by 2080 according to the latest Government-backed report into climate change and biodiversity.
The Monarch report (Modelling Natural Resource Responses to Climate Change) ? funded by a conglomerate of organisations including DEFRA, Natural England, the RSPB and the National Trust ? marks the culmination of a seven-year project by the UK Climate Impacts Programme, which aims to simulate where, over the coming decades, the climate in the UK will become favourable or unfavourable for 32 of the UK?s key Biodiversity Action Plan species, including the blackgrouse and capercaillie.
The prognosis for some species is distinctly bleak. The report states that unless increased action is taken now to mitigate the effects of a loss of suitable climate space for threatened species as a consequence of global warming, maintaining the range and population size of the blackgrouse will have become difficult to achieve as soon as the 2020s. While by 2050 the report predicts a total loss of climate space suitable for the capercaillie.
?Climate change is the most serious threat to biodiversity in the 21st century,? warned Barry Gardiner MP, the minister for biodiversity, at the launch of the report. Only the week before, he personally witnessed blackgrouse at their lek on Howden Moor, in the Peak District, when he was taken there on a fact-finding mission by the Countryside Alliance. He added: ?Change is already happening and its impacts will continue for decades to come. We need to take action now to ensure that our plants and wildlife are able to adapt.?
The report acknowledges loss of climate space is not the only factor in declining populations, suggesting loss of suitable habitat is also a critical factor. In the case of the blackgrouse, the bird used to be present in every county in the UK, with a lekking site even where Bournemouth Town Hall now stands.
It is particularly gratifying that we have already exceeded the biodiversity action plan target of 1,000 males by 2010, which demonstrates that blackgrouse respond well in areas where habitat improvements and predator control are being undertaken. The next new target is to expand their range into former haunts across northern England where they once flourished.?