Our changing climate is already affecting wildlife in Scilly. Join our Interim CEO, Julian, for a brief exploration of our changing world and a handful of examples of differences we are noticing already...


Our changing climate is already affecting the wildlife of the Isles of Scilly.  Leaders from around the world have been gathering in Glasgow to fight for our slim hopes of limiting climate change to 1.5° C, but the changes in our Islands have already been dramatic.

If anyone is sceptical about whether or not our climate is warming, they only need to go birding.  A few decades ago, sightings of Mediterranean Gull and Little Egret would’ve attracted great interest in Scilly.  Now these species are commonplace around our shores.  And with any climate change, islands are likely to lose more than they gain.

Flying Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, Scilly Summer 2021 saw no nesting Kittiwakes around the Islands for the first time.  Until 15 years ago there were over 200 pairs.  This seabird is threatened by warming sea waters and a change in the marine foodchain.  With Scilly being at the southern edge of the range of this species, perhaps it’s no surprise that we seem to be losing them.  (If you'd like to know more, further details can be found in our 2021 report.)

Severe storms in the 2013/2104 winter seems to have swept Shore Dock off Scilly’s beaches.  The Isles of Scilly used to be an international stronghold for this rare beach plant, but this species has not been seen in the Islands since.

It’s possible that Shore Dock might reoccur if viable seed is washed-up. Consideration should also be given to its reintroduction.  However, this is a plant which benefits from trickles of freshwater meeting the strandline – if occasional droughts become more pronounced, our shores will get less suitable for this global rarity.

Islands are particularly vulnerable to climate change – and not just because of how islands shrink with sea level rise.  Islands always have a lower species count than comparably-sized patches of much larger land masses.  For instance, Kidney Vetch is absent here, though abundant on the same geology along the nearest parts of the Cornish coast.  Islands have fewer species as isolated populations are prone to extinction events and islands offer little chance for re-colonisation.

Moss Carder Bee, Bombus muscorum scyllonius, ScillyIn recent years we’ve lost the unique Scilly race of the Moss Carder-bee.  We don’t know precisely why this particular species died out here.  However, a changing climate with greater weather extremes, is going to increase the extinction rate for the special species which have made the Isles of Scilly their home.

Despite all the talk, the science is clear that the rate of climate change is a long way from slowing.  We need a transformation in the way we use energy.  If we take this course we can limit sea level rise and keep our weather within the range required by the native species which have thrived here over the years.

The alternative is a grim one, for people and wildlife.  Coastal homes and coastal habitat are both at risk.  The problem is global, but the solution is local action – here as elsewhere around the world.  The Council of the Isles of Scilly have just launched the consultation on their Climate Change Action Plan. This is likely to be the most important consultation they will ever run.

The document is available to view online (click the image or link below)

Isles of Scilly Climate Change Action Plan 2021

 https://scilly.gov.uk/environment-transport/climate-change-action-plan-2021

The consultation is open for four weeks and can be completed online; alternatively there are a number of consultation events taking place across the Islands, as detailed below; all responses must be in by 6th December 2021.  We must all play our part by being ready to live differently – and better.


With thanks to BareFoot Photographer, Ed Marshall and Bryan Thomas image used in this Blog