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The effect of #Climatechange in Europe
Climate Climate Man-Made

The decline of biodiversity in Belgium

On March 24 it is Earth Hour again. Earth hour is the largest mobilization for the planet organized by the WWF! On this occasion, the public around the world is reminded of how precious our planet is and how crucial it is to protect it.

The UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) has chosen to make Earth Hour the global event for mobilizing the general public around nature. The 11th edition of Earth Hour will highlight the vital role that nature and biodiversity play in our lives. Biodiversity and climate are interconnected. Climate change puts extra pressure on biodiversity. The deterioration of biodiversity exacerbates climate change.

In a short series of three articles, we provide an overview of the impact of climate change on our Belgian nature. In this first article we talk about animal species in our own country. A second article next week is about our coast and the North Sea. And a third article the following week about our forests.

The decline of biodiversity in Belgium

In our country, 25 to 75% of the species run the risk of decreasing very sharply. There are many causes for this, such as the degradation of their habitats through fragmentation, development, pollution of the soil, water and air, etc.

Climate change puts biodiversity under even greater pressure: the indigenous species have the choice between adapting or migrating and ... extinction. Meanwhile, new species appear that sometimes develop en masse and at the expense of the indigenous species.

Since 2004, there has been e.g. an alarming deterioration of the Two-Spotted Ladybug. This is due to the introduction, in the 1990s, of the Asian ladybug as biological pesticide. This species mainly feeds on aphids but also attacks our native ladybirds and eats their offspring.
Two-Spotted Ladybug on a green leaf
Two-Spotted ladybug

Changing interactions between species

Due to the rise in temperature, certain spring phenomena are seen earlier, such as the budding of the flower buds (5 to 15 days earlier than 50 years ago), and certain autumn phenomena later, such as the discoloration of the leaves. These changes disrupt the interactions between the species.

Yellow, brown Atumn leaves

Photo: Jan Hofman

Take, for example, the pied flycatcher. The arrival date of this migratory bird evolves more slowly than the period in which the main food for his young (the beech caterpillar) occurs. In the last 20 years, the flycatcher has returned to his overwintering areas in Africa earlier, but not nearly enough to benefit from the food peak. The result is that the population of Pied Flycatchers is starting to decline strongly in Belgium.

Some species settle in our regions

The scientists also see changes in the distribution areas due to the fact that many thermophilic (heat-loving) species move to the north. In recent decades, more and more species have appeared in Belgium that belong in warm temperate climates: southern dragonflies (such as the fire dragonfly), spiders (wasp spider, originating from the Mediterranean basin), birds (European bee-eater, a species from the south nowadays). also breeds in Belgium) and mosquitoes (which can transmit tropical diseases such as the West Nile virus), etc. Some harmful species benefit from the effects of climate change (spreading of ticks, processional caterpillars, etc.).
fire dragonfly on a green leave
Fire dragonfly

In Wallonia, because of the succession of hot and dry summers, seven southern species of dragonflies have been observing more and more for several years. The same applies to other southern insect species such as grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, etc.

Spinning research in the Antwerp city center has shown that there are currently a number of species, such as the white-backed spider, which originally had a more southern spread. Everything indicates that they have gone down to Antwerp on their own, and survive there. In addition, species were found outdoors that normally only occur indoors in our home. All this, according to the arachnologists (spinning specialists), clearly indicates a gradual warming of the climate. "

In the North Sea, more southern species such as the sardines and the anchovies capture a place because the temperature of the water has risen.

... .. And other species are leaving

Certain indigenous species leave our regions, such as the cod, which migrates north in search of colder water.

In many other species, the pace of climate change exceeds their migration capacity, especially when their movements are limited by the fragmented landscape or when the species can not find adapted habitats. Some bird species (such as redpolls) are in danger of disappearing from Flanders in the future, as a result of the increased temperature during the breeding season.

The Brussels-Capital Region has conducted a study in the Zoniënwoud to evaluate the impact of climate changes on different forest species. This research has shown that the expected environmental conditions in the future will not be favorable for the growth of the beech trees. The famous "Beech Cathedral" is therefore in danger and may well disappear forever.
Beach trees green forrest
The famous "Beech Cathedral"

By: WWF. Cover photo: Pied flycatcher