December 28, 2008

UK Wildlife Suffers From Erratic Weather Changes

The National Trust stated that UK wildlife is struggling to cope as erratic and unseasonal weather has taken its toll for a second consecutive year.

Birds, mammals and particularly insects have all suffered from a cold, late spring, a wet summer with little sunshine and a long, dry autumn, they said.

Known species under threat from the drastic weather changes include puffins, marsh fritillary butterflies and lesser horseshoe bats. Another wet summer in 2009 could also severely affect insects.

The trust's conservation experts performed several studies showing the impact of the weather and how some wildlife has become out-of-step with the usual seasonal patterns.

The study showed that snowdrops and red admiral butterflies were first spotted in January, which is much earlier than normal. And in April, bees were hit hard by frost and snow.

Rain in late May caused many birds' nests to fail because of the lack of insect food, including those of the blue and great tits.

Migrant insects like butterflies, moths, hoverflies, ladybirds and dragonflies struggled during the summer because of the wet and cold in June.

Also during mid-summer, puffin numbers on the Farne Islands were down 35% from what they had been five years earlier and the common autumn cranefly, usually in pest proportions in September, was all but absent.

"Many iconic species closely associated with the four seasons are having to cope with higher incidents of poor weather as our climate becomes more unpredictable," said Matthew Oates, a conservation adviser for the National Trust.

He said after two very poor years in a row, the area is in desperate need of a good summer in 2009. Otherwise, he said, it's going to look increasingly grim for a wealth of wildlife in the UK.

"Climate change is not some future prediction of what might happen, it's happening now and having a serious impact on our countryside every year."

There have, however, been a few advantages to the recent weather changes, as the cold and wet October increased fungi, with 26 species of waxcap spotted.

This year also saw a spectacular display of red, yellow and orange autumn leaves.

The trust said poor weather in August had its benefits for certain cabbage white butterflies, which prospered as their predators were depleted.


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