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UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report

14th Jul 2016

Every five years the government must carry out an assessment of the current and future risks to the country from climate change.  The latest risk assessment has just been released detailing how climate change is impacting on different sectors.  The information below is dealing with how climate change is impacting on the natural environment.

Climate change is already having an impact on natural systems in the UK. Evidence of long-term shifts in the distribution and abundance of some terrestrial, freshwater and marine species due to higher temperatures is now discernible, despite complex interactions. These shifts can be expected to continue and become more widespread, with some species potentially benefiting, but others losing suitable climate space.

Climate change presents a substantial risk to the vital goods and services provided to people by the natural environment. The continued provision of key goods and services provided by the natural environment, including clean water, food, timber, pollination, carbon storage and natural flood alleviation are at risk from climate change.

Climate change risks and opportunities for the natural environment

Cross cutting Issues

Pests and Diseases

Ne9: Risks to agriculture, forestry, landscapes and wildlife from pests, pathogens and invasive species.

Natural carbon stores

Ne5: Risks to natural carbon stores and carbon sequestration

Landscape and Sense of place

Ne14: Risks and opportunities from changes in landscape character

Key risks for natural capital from climate change include:

The majority of agricultural land in the eastern side of the UK is projected to become less suitable for farming due to reduced water availability, increased soil aridity and the continued loss of soil organic matter. 

Reduced water availability in the summer, combined with increased water demand from a growing population, is likely to challenge the ecological health of rivers and lakes.

The loss of habitat and sediment in the coastal zone from sea level rise will have implications for the long-term viability of coastal defences, which often rely on natural buffering to absorb wave energy.

A combination of ocean acidification and higher temperatures is already having an impact and could result in fundamental changes to marine food chains and the fisheries that they support.

Priorities for further action and research include:

More effort to end damaging management practices and deliver the widespread restoration of degraded habitats.

Take more flexible and integrated approaches to managing natural capital. 

Assess the nature and scale of changing land suitability, including research into more resilient crop varieties and farming systems.

Better understand the magnitude and scale of risks to marine ecosystems and fisheries from climate change.

To read the briefing further please click here.

Source: UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report, Natural environment and natural assets, Chapter 3.