South East

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South East

Find out how we are working to save nature, with your help, in the South East! Follow our Twitter and Facebook pages for updates @RSPB_Southeast or @RSPBUrban
  • Show the Love for Heathland

    Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife. Our changing climate means that many habitats become less suitable homes for our plants and wildlife. As part of The Climate Coalition, we are highlighting the changes we have already noticed on our reserves and the ways in which we are working to combat them.

    We all need to take a stand for nature and #ShowtheLove

     Dartford warblers are an exciting and rare symbol of lowland heathland in the south of England. These small, charismatic birds with their long tail can be seen perched on top of gorse, or searching for invertebrates or singing their raspy, distinctive song. They are dependent on heathland habitat in the UK and are particularly vulnerable to cold winters.  In the 1960s Dartford warblers almost died out in the UK on account of the harsh winter of 1962/63.

    As a result of climate change, Dartford warblers will become even more reliant on our UK heathland habitats. Milder winters with reduced snow would suit Dartford warbler and it is predicted that their future range would shift northwards to include much of the British Isles. However, 60% of their current range is predicted to become unsuitable, and concerning declines are already being recorded. The cause for this is not yet understood but habitat change is likely to be part of the problem.

    It is therefore critical that we provide suitable habitat to ensure they can colonise our southern heathland, and also provide habitat for them to move into further north. Lowland heathland found on RSPB Reserves like Farnham and Hazeley Heath require long term management to retain the unique mosaic of open habitat.

    Many other heathland specialists are not as mobile. Britain’s rarest lizards are confined to lowland heaths and some sand dune systems in the UK. Male sand lizards sport brilliant, emerald green flanks in the breeding season, resembling living jewels among the heather stems. Sand lizards rely on areas of bare sand for breeding. Camouflaged female sand lizards lay their eggs in bare sand, relying on the suns warmth to incubate them.

    Climate change is likely to threaten the future of our sand lizards in several ways. Predictions suggest that there may be more heathland fires, which can destroy entire colonies in a matter of hours. Hotter drier summers may mean that buried eggs become too dry, and fail to develop, while warmer wetter winters might make it harder for lizards to successfully hibernate.

    Creating bigger, more joined up heaths, with lots of bare sand to breed in, and mature heather to shelter and feed in, would undoubtedly help to protect sand lizards and Dartford warbler from the worst impacts of climate change.

    We recently formed a working party with The Forestry Commission and the Thames Basin Heaths partnership project to help restore parts of Warren Heath. You can see some of our heathland conservation in action in the video below:

     
     

  • Show the Love for wet woodlands

    Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife. Our changing climate means that many habitats become less suitable homes for our plants and wildlife. As part of The Climate Coalition, we are highlighting the changes we have already noticed on our reserves and the ways in which we are working to combat them.

    We all need to take a stand for nature and #ShowtheLove   

    Wet woodland habitat, which is woodland that is saturated by standing water throughout the year, is one of a number of specialist habitats declining in range and condition due to lack of management and clearance or drainage by agriculture. It is an important habitat for a range of species from dragonflies and amphibians to birds and insects. With our remaining wet woodland fragmented and decreasing in size, climate change is likely to threaten this special habitat even further. Changes such as lower rainfall or higher evaporation from increased temperatures could result in some of our remaining wet woodland drying out and disappearing altogether.

    Wet woodlands and boggy habitat provide a rich source of different niches, an important one being deadwood. This is important for a range of different species including rare invertebrates and bryophytes. Up to 40% of woodland species have an element of their life cycle associated with dead wood, this may be for feeding or using dead wood for nesting. At RSPB Broadwater Warren we have roughly 10 hectares of wet woodland and we have been carrying out several management techniques to improve the structure and water retention of the wet woodlands, as well as providing different elements of dead wood, such as standing, fallen and log piles in both shade and sun.

    In areas where we have removed rhododendron, ponds have been created. We have been coppicing areas of the woodland (essentially mimicking traditional practices and natural ones by species like beaver) to create a better structure for species such as marsh tits and dormice. We have created more wet areas and retained water by using logs to slow the flow of stream. We have created dead wood in a number of ways, one practice to speed up the process is by selectively scarring and boring into some trees to create standing dead wood for hole nesting species such as the rare lesser spotted woodpecker, this species (the size of a sparrow) needs rotten wood to create its nest holes. Over time our management should provide a home for an array of species associated with wet woodlands.

  • Show the Love for little terns

    Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife. Our changing climate means that many habitats become less suitable homes for our plants and wildlife. As part of The Climate Coalition, we are highlighting the changes we have already noticed on our reserves and the ways in which we are working to combat them.

    We all need to take a stand for nature and #ShowtheLove!

    One of the core parts of our work on the Solent RSPB reserves is the effort to ensure a viable healthy future for the regions breeding little tern population (as well as their close kin: sandwich terns and common terns). They arrive here each spring from their western African wintering grounds, driven by the instinct to raise a new generation, incubating eggs on the fine coastal shingle and feeding the hatched chicks on small fish in the surrounding cooler, rich waters.

    On our RSPB nature reserves, we’re able to safeguard them from many of the threats of the modern world, allowing them to carry on with their lives mostly unaffected.  Sadly, the predicted results of climate change threaten to impact our shore nesting seabirds throughout their lifecycle in ways that will be very difficult or potentially impossible for us to protect them from.

     Due to the scale of the changes currently occurring in our atmosphere and oceans, the new or increased issues predicted are varied.  Perhaps the most obvious impact is sea level rise which threatens to literally inundate the key remaining nesting areas.  Likewise, depending on location, changes in weather patterns threaten to increase the frequency and power of nest destroying storm surges and torrential rainstorms which soak chicks too young to survive the experience. 

    It's not just direct impacts that threaten these enigmatic birds, climate change is likely to affect our entire ecosystem; many of the small fish which are needed to feed the rapidly growing chicks are expected to move north, following their own food sources as they retreat towards cooler waters. Changes to food chains will impact not only on our terns, but all the other species relying on these small fish for food.

    Although we’ll do everything we can to mitigate the impacts ahead wherever possible, by far the best thing we can all do for our coastal wildlife, ourselves and future generations of both is to limit the amount of temperature increase that takes place whilst it’s still within our power to do so.