Ecological Refugees Arrive in the UK, Observed by Wildlife Watchers

Wildlife watchers from the UK are now seeing ecological refugees due to the ongoing rise of the Earth’s temperature. These animals are finding safe places that were formerly too cold. This situation is happening worldwide — most refugees were birds and insects.

Photo: Pixnio/Gentry George, USFWS

Researchers from the University of Exeter requested volunteers to contribute to wildlife recording schemes about their attitude towards the arrival of various birds and insects in the UK. The volunteers welcomed most of the refugees — primarily insects and species they were unfamiliar with.

“We found that wildlife recorders viewed range-shifters more as vulnerable ‘ecological refugees’ than as threatening ‘climate opportunists,'” said Dr. Regan Early of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Photo: Pixabay/dgwaw

Range-shifters will be treated based on the public’s perception, mainly by volunteers. The survey showed that the wildlife watchers are against welcoming ecological refugees only if those species harm native animals. These volunteers are wary of how these species and native animals will interact and cohabit.

Jamie Cranston is the lead author of the research, and he shared, “I hope this could be an opportunity to engage more people with the excitement of biodiversity conservation.”

People worldwide must be aware of migrating animals and aim to treat any species as ecological refugees. Participants who contributed to the study were informed of the animals that were able to shift habitats and landed in the UK. Most of them were birds such as little bittern and Eurasian spoonbill. The list also includes insects like the small red-eyed damselfly and the mottled shieldbug.

Photo: Pixabay/sarangib

The research was published in People and Nature by authors James Cranston, Sarah L. Crowley, and Regan Early. It was entitled “UK wildlife recorders cautiously welcome range-shifting species but incline against intervention to promote or control their establishment.”

Range-shifters are still observed to see whether the situation is invasive or will lead to biodiversity. Researchers from the Northeast CASC, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, The University of California, Irvine, and other institutions focused on this concern by conducting a framework study. This will determine how range-shifters affect native animals — will it save biodiversity or decrease species populations even more?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Charles J. Sharp

Northeast CASC Research Ecologist Toni Lyn Morelli said, “This is a complicated issue. We want species to be able to move around; for many, this will be their only chance to persist. But we also need to be aware of the negative repercussions for recipient ecosystems. In rare cases, we will want to manage them.”

Shifting habitats is already a sign that the Earth is no longer the same as before. Even animals leave parts of the planet that do not align with their habitat needs. This situation is a major concern, as we don’t know until whether these animals can find an available safe habitat for their species to thrive and how they will interact with other creatures in a new ecosystem.

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