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Climate change and migratory species: a review of impacts, conservation actions, indicators and ecosystem services 2023


Many of the world’s most iconic species migrate as part of their life-cycles. Migration is key to the survival of these species; they are finely adapted to specific habitats that change with the seasons. It has been known for some time that climate change has the potential to adversely impact migratory species. This new review presents a summary of recent scientific evidence that indicates that the impacts of climate change are being felt by migratory species now; and finds that these impacts could have catastrophic implications for many migratory species.

This latest review updates previous reviews conducted in 2005 (BTO 2005), 2006 (UNEP/CMS 2006) and 2010 (UNEP/CMS/ZSL 2010).

The review is published in three parts, with an accompanying summary:

  • Summary for policy makers: summarises the key findings of the review, together with key messages and recommendations
  • Part 1 – Impacts of climate change on migratory species: documents a review of literature which was carried out to identify the impacts of climate change on each group of migratory species listed on CMS Appendix I and Appendix II. A range of climate change threats on migratory species were identified, research gaps identified and potential conservation responses outlined.
  • Part 2 – Conserving migratory species in the face of climate change: summarises the results of a literature review of conservation interventions that have previously been employed on migratory species in the context of climate change. Key considerations for the conservation of migratory species are outlined, providing examples of studies that have demonstrated these. Additionally, an assessment was undertaken of climate change indicators created since 2009, and those with potential to assess climate change impacts on migratory species were identified.
  • Part 3 – Migratory species and their role in ecosystems: summarises a review of the potential roles migratory species can have as key components of ecosystems, particularly through providing nature-based solutions related to climate change. It highlights examples where the conservation of migratory species may also contribute to wider benefits for people and ecosystems, to help decision makers begin to consider these issues in a cross-cutting and holistic way.

This review was commissioned by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, through a contract to the British Trust for Ornithology funded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs via the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, as a significant contribution to the work of CMS and to raise global awareness about the impacts of climate change on migratory species that are already being observed. 

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Resource type Publication

Topic category Environment

Reference date 2023·12·10

This review was commissioned by Defra through JNCC as a significant contribution to the work of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), and prepared by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC publisher

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated.

Metadata date 2023·12·13

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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