UP - Robins
There’s good news here for our red breasted friends. While many bird populations have declined, robins have bucked the trend, increasing by 45% in the UK since the 1970’s according to the Natural History Museum.
Most of the growth has been in urban and suburban areas and at the latest count there were around 6.7m robins in the UK, according to the British Trust for Ornithology.
Mark Webb, UK Head of Ecology at WSP, said: “It’s great to see the number of robins has increased so significantly since the 1970s, they are such an iconic feature of Christmases in the UK.”
UP - Mistletoe
More good news for the romantics amongst us. The National Biodiversity Network’s atlas suggests that mistletoe is increasing across the UK, but it’s hard to be clear by just how much. “The increase could be due to climate change directly or perhaps indirectly, because bird species such as blackcaps, which have recently started over-wintering instead of migrating, eat mistletoe berries and inadvertently spread their seeds”, said Mark Webb.
UP - Trees
Beyond farmed Christmas trees, tree cover in the UK has increased over the last 50 years. Today around 13% of the UK’s land is woodland, of which about half is pine, spruce and other conifers like Christmas trees. That’s well up from 7.4% of land cover in 1964 (an increase of 45%) and 4.5% at the turn of the 20th Century.
David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability at WSP, said: “This is a trend that will likely continue as the we look set to plant more trees in the UK, though these will be broadleaved and mixed forests compared to the conifer woods which were planted following the First and Second World Wars.”
UP - Christmas stars
Be it a miraculous sign, a comet or a planetary alignment, scientists are split on the precise cause of the Star of Bethlehem. But, if we just take comets, we’re discovering more each year. Scientists know of 6,996 today, around three hundred more than just 18 months ago.
Of course, not all of these are visible to the naked eye – that’s around one a year - and this is just a fraction of the total number of comets, thought to be around a trillion.
DOWN - White Christmas
White Christmases are a rare event in the UK. There has only been four years since 1970 where there’s been widespread snow on the ground on Christmas Day. UK Climate Projections show that the amount and severity of snow has declined since the 1960s with snow being even less likely in the future.
“Of course, the natural variability of the weather will not stop snowy winters, so here’s hoping”, said David Symons.
DOWN - Reindeer
Sadly, it’s not good news though for Santa’s helpers. Reindeer numbers have fallen by more than 50% in the past 20 years to a population of 2.1m, according to scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Scientists say a variety of factors linked to climate change are the likely cause, including less lichen, more insects and temperature changes leading to freezing rain causing a layer of ice which reindeer can’t break through to feed.
UNCHANGED - Seeing Santa
Happily, the likelihood of seeing Santa appears unchanged over the past 50 years.