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Warm weather leaves wildlife vulnerable

Birds breeding habits could be disrupted

(Keystone Archive)

Plants and wildlife in Switzerland are behaving as if spring has arrived, as temperatures have risen way above the seasonal average. Climate experts say the trend will make it possible for citrus crops to be grown north of the Alps in the future.

This winter is already one of the warmest on record, and unseasonably high temperatures this month have prompted birds to start breeding and plants to flower, even though spring is still months away.

This week, temperatures in the northern city of Basel climbed to 17 degrees, more than 10 degrees above the seasonal average.

For the birds, the warm weather is a mixed blessing, according to Luc Schifferli of the Swiss Ornithological Institute. "If the weather stays fine they might raise more broods. But if it turns cold and snows, they will lose their chicks."

Schifferli told swissinfo that birds would still breed when spring comes. But he said that if the trend towards warm winters becomes more pronounced, it could have serious implications for migratory birds.

"If temperatures increase, some species might choose to winter in this country instead of flying south. This could lead to some migratory species becoming sedentary. I don't think you can say whether this is good or bad, it's just something that happens."

Warmer temperatures could have major implications for Swiss agriculture, too. Meteorological experts say the longer-term changes are likely to give Switzerland a climate more like that of the southern European countries, along the Mediterranean.

Jürg Fuhrer, a researcher into agricultural ecology and farming, says this could change agriculture completely. "The growing of citrus fruits - oranges, lemons and grapefruits - could one day be possible north of the Alps."

Milder temperatures might be positive for farmers, but they do not bode well for Switzerland's lower lying ski resorts. Already, faced with a shortage of snow, they are seeing the tree line gradually rise and wild flowers spring up at higher altitudes.

swissinfo with agencies


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