Wet summer threatens wildlife 'apocalypse'

Friday 27th Jul 2012 by theWeather Club

Image: Hugh Venables

This year's bad weather has proved almost apocalyptic for much of the UK's wildlife, according to the National Trust. Many birds, bats, butterflies, bees, amphibians and wildflowers have been struggling in the cold wet conditions and the trust warns that the outlook for some species next year is bleak. The trust's conservation adviser, Matthew Oates even warned of the possibility of local extinctions of rare and isolated insects such as butterflies.

Wet weather has hit the breeding attempts of a wide array of wildlife. At Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, adult terns have been struggling to keep eggs and chicks warm and dry through the relentless wet weather and it could be a year when no Common, Arctic or Sandwich terns fledge from the site at all.

Puffins on the Farne Islands, managed by the National Trust, have had a catastrophic breeding year, with 90% of burrows lost on Brownsman Island and around half of burrows flooded on the other islands. The cool conditions have also affected bats, in particular lesser and greater horseshoe bats whose pregnancies will have slowed down. Pups will be born underweight and will not get enough nutrition from their mothers to grow enough to go into hibernation, Oates warned. Butterflies, bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and moths are all scarce in the wet conditions, and conservationists have said butterflies are facing their worst year ever recorded. The dry start to the year dried up pools for amphibians to breed in, and when the rain arrived in April it filled up ponds with water too cool for frogs, newts and toads.

Mr. Oates added "This is turning out to be an almost apocalyptic summer for most of our much loved wildlife – birds, butterflies, bees. So much so, that the prospects for many of these species in 2013 is bleak. Our wildlife desperately needs some sustained sunshine, particularly beneficial insects."

The problem has been caused by the jet stream sitting unusually far south for most of the summer and, according to Mr. Oates, it is essential for wildlife that it returns to its normal position before the autumn sets in to allow animals prepare for the winter.

There have been some wildlife winners from the wettest April to June on record and the second dullest June ever recorded, but they are not exactly the nation's most loved species. Gardeners across the country have seen an increase in slugs and snails that are thriving in gardens and allotments as well as in the countryside. But the list of losers far outstrips the list of winners and with no real sign of sustained sunny weather, the prospects for next year are also starting to look increasing bleak.