BBC Winterwatch recently utilised the long-term temperature records collected by UKCEH at the UK-SCAPE and SNH-funded ECN Cairngorms research site.

The data was used to highlight the potential risks of climate change for ptarmigans in the Cairngorms.

Chris Packham introduced the story on the first episode of the new BBC Winterwatch series (from 29m30s), discussing how ptarmigans occupy a range between 700 and 1200m.a.s.l in the Cairngorms, but that are also further restricted to mountain areas where mean July temperature is colder than 10-12°C.

ECN Cairngorm data was then used to show that mean July temperatures at 700m (the lower end of their altitudinal range) are already at 10.8°C, and a rise of just 1°C could result in the birds' minimum altitude range being forced a further 156m up hill (based on a July lapse rate of 0.64°C per 100m - calculated comparing ECN Cairngorm and Met Office Aviemore weather stations).

A likely impact of this is to force ptarmigan onto isolated mountain summits, reducing their genetic diversity, and limiting their ability to adapt to environmental change.

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