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The Colours Of Climate Change


We’re on the hunt for your sensational summer snaps! Be it a strange, stripy caterpillar you found when walking your dog, or a bright yellow rape seed field you passed at the weekend, we want to see the colourful nature that inspires you to take action against climate change. For your chance to win a signed David Attenborough book, an animal adoption of your choice and a WWF goody bag, upload your colourful photograph to Instagram or twitter. Be sure to include #ColoursOfClimate and @wwf_uk in your caption to ensure we receive your entry!

Montage of summer natureSummer colours © WWF UK

Summer is the season when nature thrives, with vibrant flowers and buzzing insects everywhere you go- your Instagram feed constantly full of brilliant sunsets pictures and shots of lazy Sundays in the garden. But did you know that some species and habitats are shifting away from their normal colouration due to climate change? To help inspire you for your #ColoursOfClimate competition entry, we’ve found four colour change examples that may surprise you:

Lady birds – black with red spots, or red with black spots?

Have you ever wondered whether lady birds are black with red spots, or red with black spots? The answer is in fact both, but back in 1980 you would be more likely to see a black lady bird with red spots further inland. Scientists from the University of Cambridge have been studying these colour variations for over 50 years, and recently found an emerging shift in spot colour. As temperatures are rising around the globe, creepy crawlies are adapting their colours in order to reflect the heat and keep themselves cool, whilst invasive species begin to take over. In the last year of the lady bird study, scientists found that only 20% of the sample was black with red spots, which is 70% less that back in 1980!

Red lady bird with black spots.Historically the majority of lady birds were black with red spots, but over the last 50 years this has completely change along with temperature trends ©
Thomas Wood via Flickr Creative Commons

Coral reef bleaching

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to snorkel or scuba dive a coral reef, you will know that they are a collage of stunning colours and biodiversity– or they should be. Recently the news of coral bleaching has been widely reported, with a survey revealing that a staggering 93% of almost 3,000 individual reefs have been affected. Tiny, colourful algae live on the surface of corals (which gives them their colour!) in a mutually beneficial relationship. When the temperature of the water exceeds the comfort zone of the coral it expels the algae, which turns the coral white and leaves it in an unhealthy state. With a warming planet come warmer oceans, which accentuate this process and lead to mass damage of corals.

Stunning coral reefCoral reefs are being bleached white due to temperature changes in the ocean © USFWS/ Pacific Region

Beautiful butterflies, to bland butterflies

When you think of a butterfly you think of beautiful multi-coloured wings, right? Well, scientists analysed 473 different species of European butterfly and dragonfly, finding that over a 30 year period their colours had drastically lightened. To put this into the perspective of climate change, imagine picking your outfit for the day in the height of summer – you’re much more likely to choose a light coloured t-shirt to keep you cool. Although butterflies aren’t making a conscious decision to appear lighter, the light butterflies that have the ability to reflect the sun and avoid overheating in warmer temperatures, are out competing the darker butterflies.

White butterfly Butterflies around Europe have been found lightening in response to temperature increases © Theophilos papadopoulos

Tawny owls, torn between colours

Tawny owls are known for being predominantly grey, with a small fraction of the population having brown feathers instead.  Warmer winters lately have led to our feathered friends evolving and changing colour with the climate. Rather than inheriting the normal grey colouration, almost 50% are now a light brown. Although this may not sounds like a catastrophic change, scientists have suggested that if the grey owls were to disappear completely, the genetic variation within the population of tawny owls would be reduced.

Tawny own in a treeTawny owls used to be predominantly grey, but due to climate change scientists fear that the grey gene may disappear © Daren Olley

All this colour change got us reflecting on the colours in nature that we love just the way they are. If you’re feeling inspired, enter our #ColoursOfClimate competition and share with us your nature photographs that make you want to take action against climate change.

How to enter

Entries will be accepted on Instagram and Twitter, and for us to receive your images you will need to title them with #ColoursOfClimate and @wwf_uk. Take a look at the terms and conditions for more information.

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