Climate Change and Wildlife
British wildlife hasn’t coped well with another year of unpredictable weather conditions, according to heritage body the National Trust. They say that butterflies, bees and other insects – along with the bird populations that rely on them to feed their young – were all hit by a second summer of “foul and abusive” weather in a row.
Foul and abusive weather
It’s an odd way to describe the effects of climate change. It makes the whole process sound personal, as if the El Nino effect had it in for the UK on a personal basis, or the sea level was rising just to spite the British Channel. Bizarre language indeed, but it matches a bizarre three years of weather perturbation. In 2008, a late and unusually cold spring was followed by a wet summer with very few sunny days and then a long, largely rain-free autumn. Wildlife, which depends on climate, has been thrown into confusion.
Species that normally hibernate were seen to be waking up at unpredictable intervals. White-tailed bumblebees were seen in January, two months earlier than usual, but a chilly April with zero temperatures several nights in a row followed by heavy rain for days on end in May made it impossible for many bees to find enough food to survive. That heavy rain also wiped out several colonies of the already rare marsh fritillary butterfly whose low numbers fell yet again. And the knock-on effect of this reduction in insect populations was that many nesting birds such as finches and tits fighting hard to find enough food for their young. The effect carried on right through to winter, this year’s scavengers found very few sloe berries in British hedgerows because the trees had tried to flower during the bitter chill of March and April.
What’s the response to climate change?
Well this is one of the cases where the response has already begun. From local initiatives such as the Peak District National Park Climate Change Action Plan through to the national government’s Climate Change Act, the fight – if you can call it that – is being co-ordinated.
The Peak District in the first National Park to define its part in helping deliver the Government’s target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Climate change action and adaptation are already high on the Park’s agenda. Its current work ranges from the micro: grants for community energy schemes through to the macro: projects working with bodies such as the National Trust (there they are again) to have an influence at Government level.
Parks, Peat and storing Greenhouse Gas
Measures in the plan include helping wildlife and habitats adapt to climate change as well as continuing moorland research and restoration for greenhouse gas storage … because the Park aims to act as a climate change alleviator.
Wet peat moorlands form a sustainable storage place for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide even though they are a source of another greenhouse gas: methane. This means that peat moorlands counteract the greenhouse effect under the present climatic conditions: peat functions as a net storage place for greenhouse gasses and more CO2 is stored than methane released, even if the stronger greenhouse effect of methane is allowed for.