Storms and coastal erosion raise spectre of extinction

Wednesday 5th March 2014

A number of the UK’s rarest insects live in small coastal pockets and the recent extreme storms and coastal erosion has raised a real risk of species extinction for a number of our rarer bugs.

Soft rock cliffs, sand and shingle banks provide homes for a wide variety of species including oil beetles, the Mediterranean oil beetle was rediscovered on the south coast last year after having been thought extinct for over a hundred years. Many of these species are found in only a very small number of locations making them highly vulnerable to extreme erosion.

The scaly cricket is another species at high risk from the recent weather extremes with all three known UK locations affected. Branscombe in Devon has seen waves reaching up to the cliff base completely remoulding the shingle foreshore where the cricket resides. The Dale Peninsula in Pembrokeshire has seen similar storms changing the topography of the beach. The final site where the cricket is found is Chesil Beach where the shingle spit was breached and then considerable reforming has ensued as bulldozers have been used to reshape the beach at the Portland end where the largest UK population of the cricket could be found.

“Only time will tell the effect of these extremes on the populations but whilst so many of our rarest species remained isolated in just a few sites they will remain highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions or indeed industrial accidents” commented Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife. ”Hopefully our rarest bugs just became rarer rather than extinct.”