UK Nature Faces ‘Chaos’ Due To Seasonal Shifts from Climate Change

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UK (Parliament Politics Maganize) – The National Trust claims that the absence of regular weather patterns is “causing chaos” for the natural world. It issues a warning that the natural rhythm of the seasons is being disturbed by climate change, leaving plants and wildlife more vulnerable to illness. The National Trust oversees several properties where the consequences are evident. This periodic “baseline shift” affects not only trees and plants but also the yearly behaviors of animals.

Ben McCarthy, head of Nature and Restoration Ecology at the National Trust, stated, “Over a decade, the changes are extremely significant. The incremental shifts we’re experiencing in terms of our seasons extending may not feel like much in 12 months.

“A slew of temperature records were set in 2023, including the hottest June and the highest sea temperatures ever measured off the coast of the United Kingdom. An exceptionally warm winter made illnesses and pests flourish. Algal blooms have risen in the meanwhile due to low water levels in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs brought on by a lack of rain and hot temperatures. This has occasionally resulted in fish suffocating to death as oxygen levels plummet. 

There were also powerful storms, such as Babet and Ciaran, which wreaked havoc on the nation’s shores and landscapes. You might have observed how seasonal changes affect your garden or the parks surrounding your house. For example, grass has to be mowed significantly later in the year.

According to National Trust gardeners and rangers, the reason for this is the progressively warmer and more humid weather at its locations in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Due to warm weather, certain shrubs have bloomed early, leaving them vulnerable to unexpected cold blasts that might harm pollinators and birds that eat their seeds. 

Mr McCarthy cautions that the growing year-round temperatures may have a particularly negative impact on the oak, which is the most iconic tree in the UK. The duration of cold snaps is decreasing, frequently leaving insufficient time for infections to spread. For instance, during these shorter cold intervals, the caterpillars of the oak processionary moth, which infest oak trees, flourish, making the oaks more susceptible to parasitic attacks, he explains.

As the temperature on the continent increases, the moth species has been gradually moving northward through Europe from its native location in the Mediterranean. The Trust claims that warmer winters may also have an effect on our heathlands by giving the heather beetle a chance to establish itself and decimate large swathes of the plant. Dormice and other hibernating animals are particularly vulnerable. 

They awaken from their winter hibernation early and can expend their limited remaining reserves of energy rapidly. Rangers have observed that in certain regions, red deer are delaying sexual activity until later in the year, resulting in autumnal rather than summer births of calves.

“The reason for this is that they can’t store enough fat to survive the winter,” says Simon Powne, National Trust Wildlife Manager at Holnicote Estate.”Anything exposed to these temperatures loses heat and energy and cannot survive. Thus, the mortality rate is rising.”However, in comparison with other nations, the UK has been comparatively spared from catastrophic weather in recent years, according to Keith Jones, National Trust’s National Climate Change expert. He cautions that the UK is set to see more extreme weather in the years to come, pointing to the scorching temperatures and heat waves that have decimated portions of Europe this year.

“We must not permit ourselves to be seduced into believing we are safe. We should prepare for this new “norm” as drought, high heat, heavy rains, and flooding are all expected to occur in the near future, according to Mr Jones. The Trust claims that we can enhance the resilience of the ecosystems and landscapes in the UK. 

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The endeavor to restore a Somerset river to its pre-human state serves as one such. The Aller River on the Somerset estate of Holnicote Estate had become deeper and straighter over time. It’s free to wander again now. In order to create more than seven hectares of wetland, a 1.2 km long portion has been filled in, and the water is allowed to find its way across the floodplain. The goal is to reduce the river’s flow so that the landscape can hold more water.”Let the water do what it wants to do,” says Jo Neville, the Water Advisor for Southern England and Wales at the National Trust. “And it wants to make this amazing habitat with channels all the way through the landscape, pools, ponds, wetlands.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.