Freak weather patterns threaten UK nature, National Trust warns

Freak weather patterns threaten UK nature as thousands of trees and plants are left devastated, National Trust warns

  • The National Trust’s annual review has highlighted the effects of Storm Arwen  
  • The charity has warned of more frequent and intense extreme weather events   
  • But this year’s wildlife winners include beavers released on the Holnicote Estate 
  • Record numbers of grey seals are expected thanks to plentiful fish and crabs

Wildfires, Storm Arwen and extreme weather events have left our natural world in a precarious position at the end of this year, the National Trust has warned.

Heatwaves and heavy rain are becoming ‘more frequent and more intense’ in Britain due to climate change.

The charity’s annual review highlights the damage from Storm Arwen, which last month destroyed thousands of irreplaceable trees and plants in the Lake District and Bodnant Garden in Conwy, North Wales, including 250-year-old oaks and beeches and a 170-foot redwood.

The charity’s annual review highlights the damage from Storm Arwen, which last month destroyed thousands of irreplaceable trees 

It has also been a bad 12 months for ash dieback, with an unseasonably warm winter preventing the fungi which devastates Britain’s ash trees being killed off by the cold.

The National Trust expects to spend £3million in the coming months to tackle ash dieback, which could wipe out around 95 per cent of British trees – drastically changing the face of our countryside.

However, wildlife winners of 2021 include beavers released on the Holnicote Estate in Exmoor, West Somerset, whose first kit was born in June and named Rashford after England footballer Marcus Rashford.

A lesion on an infected Ash tree. The National Trust expects to spend £3million in the coming months to tackle ash dieback

Record numbers of grey seals are expected, thanks to plentiful fish and crabs for them to eat. It was a bumper year for berries including hawthorn, rowan and holly, which is good news for the migrant birds that eat them, such as blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares.

On the worrying events for nature this year, Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation and restoration ecology at the National Trust, said: ‘The climate crisis is making extreme weather events the new normal.

‘Heatwaves and heavy rainfall are becoming more frequent and more intense.

Wildlife winners of 2021 include beavers released on the Holnicote Estate in Exmoor, West Somerset (pictured) whose first kit was born in June

‘These extreme events are putting even more pressure on Britain’s wildlife, which is already in trouble, with nearly half of species in decline and 15 per cent of UK wildlife species under threat of extinction.’

A huge blaze in the Mourne Mountains, in Northern Ireland, during April, destroyed 200 hectares of moorland.

Short-eared owls, curlews, weasels and stoats were affected by the devastation caused by fires at Marsden Moor in Yorkshire, which damaged peat soil that was thousands of years old.

The warm and dry spring endangered the large blue butterfly which lays its eggs on thyme plants that withered during drought conditions, causing large numbers of caterpillars to die in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Record numbers of grey seals, pictured, are expected, thanks to plentiful fish and crabs for them to eat

Northerly winds delayed the migration of swallows and house martins through Sandilands coastal nature reserve in Lincolnshire this April, as rain and gales led to a poor nesting season for many bird species.

But orchids flowered profusely following a very dry April and exceptionally warm June.

The slugs and snails were happy too, with cooler weather bringing hundreds of them to Ham House in west London, where they plagued National Trust gardeners.

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