Birds and butterflies battling climate change

Animal and insect species in Europe are at risk of extinction because they are failing to respond fast enough to our rapidly changing climate, say scientists.

More than 11,000 bird and butterfly species were monitored over 20 years, revealing a new phenomenon dubbed 'climatic debt'.

The findings saw birds lag behind their normal climate zones, on average by 212km and butterflies by 135km.

The Speckled Wood butterfly is one of the species becoming more localised in the North as temperatures rise .

The black and white pied flycatcher is one species not naturally moving north to cooler areas. The study reveals breeding is down and their numbers have halved in the UK since 1995.

Birds of particular concern are those that rely on insects - such as caterpillars - as their main food source. The growing gap between birds and butterflies is already having an adverse affect.

Tom Brereton, Head of Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said: "All animals live in a space in which the climate is suitable. That is moving north at the moment. What we're finding is we're losing species that are associated with the cooler temperatures from our butterfly communitites."

The solution could be human intervention. Experts suggest some threatened species could be moved to new climate spaces before they become extinct.

"It's something that's never been an issue before," said Dr Brereton. "Do we let the species become extinct or could we play God a bit and move them into places they've never occured before?"