Stark threat posed by global warming

By Craig RobinsonHUNDREDS of acres of East Anglia's most important stretches of coastline could be lost to the sea because of the devastating effect of global climate change.

By Craig Robinson

HUNDREDS of acres of East Anglia's most important stretches of coastline could be lost to the sea because of the devastating effect of global climate change.

The World Wildlife Fund has warned that rises in world temperature will lead to wide-scale coastal destruction in the east of England, threatening the future survival of sea birds, deepening the decline of cod and causing an increase in sea levels.

This rise will not only increase the likelihood of flooding, but will also reduce coastal habitats through erosion and damage to nesting sites.

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The report, Climate Change: Plunging our Seas into Deeper Crisis, added an increase in sea surface temperature would be a major factor in further disrupting the breeding, feeding and growing cycles of fish, which would in turn impact upon sea bird populations.

Julian Roughton, director of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, agreed the impact of climate change on the region's coast could have a catastrophic effect.

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“For a county such as Suffolk, which has a soft rock coastline, the impact of climate change potential is immense,” he said.

“Already some coast in south-east England has been affected through long-term changes and climate change is another level on top of this.

“The big concern for us is that the Suffolk coast has a lot of internationally-important wildlife reserves from top to bottom and erosion caused by increasing sea levels will destroy some of these.

“We need to take urgent action otherwise it will mean a loss of habitat for a number of species.”

According to the trust, Suffolk was likely to see an average temperature increase of between 2.5C and 4.5C by the end of the century, leading to milder and wetter winters and drier, hotter summers punctuated by occasional monsoon-type downpours.

It also predicted global sea levels were likely to rise by 50cm over the next century, which will cause low-lying coasts to flood and some fresh and saltwater marshes to be lost.

Mr Roughton warned wildlife reserves in Trimley, near Felixstowe, Dingle Marshes, near Dunwich, and Hazelwood, near Aldeburgh, were particularly under threat.

“These areas are a major concern and unless we maintain defences they may well be lost to the sea,” he said.

“We are in the process of some conservation efforts at the moment and in 1999 we created a new breeding habitat at Henreed bed, near Southwold, which has attracted a number of key species including bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.

“This shows that it can be done, but suitable areas, which are not vulnerable to changes in coastline, have to be found fairly urgently.”

But Mr Roughton said the warmer weather might encourage new species to move to the Suffolk coast.

“There has been evidence of some species moving further north and there is no reason why this will not happen in Suffolk,” he said.

“Dartford warblers have recolonised in Suffolk after a break of 60 years. The dominance of mild winters has ensured their survival and there are now more than 70 pairs on the Sandlings heaths, which run between Lowestoft and Ipswich.”

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