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Earlier springs could destroy delicate balance of UK wildlife, study shows

February 11, 2010

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As snow flurries continued to cause disruption across the country today, spring may feel further away than ever. But recent winters have been ending earlier than ever before, according to a new assessment of Britain’s wildlife that reveals global warming could be disrupting the delicate balance of nature.

The analysis confirms that spring and summer are occurring earlier, but also shows that this trend appears to be accelerating. The shift could pose problems for animals, birds and fish that rely on springtime flowering of plants to supply food for their young.

Stephen Thackeray, a biologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Lancaster, who co-led the research said: “This is about the desynchronisation of events during the year. Animals and birds time their reproduction to coincide with periods when there will be an abundance of food. If changes mean there is not enough food available then this could have negative consequences for their offspring.”…..


The research, published in the journal Global Change Biology, found large differences between species in the rate at which seasonal events have altered. Changes have been most rapid for many organisms at the bottom of food chains, such as plants and the animals that eat them. Predators have shown slower overall changes in the seasonal timing of their lifecycle events. This could spell problems, as the seasonal timing of reproduction is often matched to the time of year when food supply increases, so that offspring receive food needed to survive. A key question, the scientists say, is whether animals higher up the food chain can adapt to the faster rates of change in the plants and animals they feed on.  ……

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