Extreme weather conditions hit UK wildlife in 2021, National Trust says

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Extreme weather conditions in the UK have taken their toll on wildlife in 2021, a conservation charity has said.

The National Trust said the destruction from floods, wildfires, storms and extremely high temperatures seen this year are indicative of the “new climate normal” in the years to come.

The charity’s annual wildlife and nature review highlights the impact of climate change on UK wildlife, both good and bad.

Butterflies have suffered this year as a cold and wet spring caused the number of species to decline from the previous year – the lowest number on record in Butterfly Conservation’s large butterfly count.

The National Trust has observed butterflies emerging later in the very cool spring and lower numbers at sites such as the New Forest, while the reintroduced large blue butterfly has also seen its numbers decline in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Nesting attempts by a number of bird species were also affected by the spring cold.

In Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland, a pair of barn owls abandoned their breeding grounds and the Blakeney Freshes lapwings were put off by the cold ground conditions, the charity said.

Researchers are still investigating the deaths of hungry murres and razorbills found dead or dying along the east coast during the summer.

However, tern species had a mixed year across the country, with some thriving while others suffering from “sea level rise … human disturbances, predators and storms around the breeding season. “.

The land has been ravaged by extreme weather conditions such as wildfires and storms, including the latest Storm Arwen which uprooted hundreds of trees at National Trust sites in Bodnant Gardens, Wales and Wallington in Northumberland.

Forest fires in the Morne Mountains of Northern Ireland devastated 200 hectares (500 acres) of land while others in Marden Moor, Yorkshire destroyed 500 hectares (nearly 1,300 acres) of moorland, affecting a diverse range of threatened plants and birds at the two sites.

Long periods of dry weather coupled with erosion from heavy rainfall in previous years saw a 300m cliff fall on the Dorset coast in April, most of the coastline for 60 years, meaning an acceleration of erosion.

The apple blossom harvest in September was also very poor, the charity said, due to late frosts in April and May, while climate change increases the risk of tree disease, the charity having had to fell some 30,000 trees this year due to ash dieback. , which kills ash trees across the country, and the sudden death of larch.

However, some species of mushroom have thrived, as have orchids and gray seals, showing that climate change in the UK is not all bad news.

Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation and restoration ecology at the National Trust, called for more work to protect the UK’s ‘unique’ wildlife, especially isolated or smaller populations.

He said: “Climate change is making some forms of extreme weather events the new normal. Heat waves and heavy rains are becoming more frequent and intense.

“What we are seeing in the UK with the impacts of wildfires and severe storms like Arwen and Barra is how climate change is altering our landscapes forever.”

He added: ‘These extreme events put even more pressure on Britain’s wildlife, which is already struggling with more than half of species in decline and 15% of wildlife threatened with extinction.

“Our nature is part of what makes the UK unique and we must all play our part to protect it.

“The scale of the challenge we face is enormous, but there is much we can do to address climate damage. Isolated or small populations are the most exposed to climate impacts.

“Our conservation work protects and restores the wildlife in our precious landscapes to help nature literally weather storms.

“By conserving nature and improving habitats, we can support larger populations who are better able to respond to the drivers of change and help nature survive. “

Additional reports by the PA

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