2015: A review of the year
Every year, our weather’s highs and lows challenge our wildlife. Here’s a look back at some of 2015’s wildlife winners and losers.
After a mild start to the year, a late spring and summer meant that migrant birds were held up by northerly winds and by hedges coming into leaf later than usual. The season came to life with the sunniest April since recording began in 1929.
However, spring deteriorated into a wet and remarkably windy summer, notably in the far north.
Autumn rains arrived only after the warmest November day on record. The unseasonable warmth led to the prolonged flowering of many summer plants and insects lingered longer.
The flooding and destruction caused by storm Desmond in early December showed the intensity of extreme weather events. Climate change means such events are likely to increase in frequency. The impact of such storms on life in flooded rivers and land is not yet clear.
Signs of decline
Worryingly, wasps had another poor year, particularly in the south west. This represents a wider decline in insect populations, thought to be caused by confounding weather and pesticide use in farming.
Matthew Oates, nature and wildlife specialist, said: 'Every year our wildlife faces new challenges from the extremes of our weather, against a backdrop of decline for 60% of species in the UK.
'This year we’ve seen unprecedented jellyfish invasions. This may be due to overfishing and warming seas, which has led to huge plankton booms and reduced the number of predators.
'We also need to find out what’s happening to our wasps. Many might welcome their dwindling numbers, but the ecological world is a delicate one and we have to ask what impact this is having.
'What’s clear is that our native wildlife has enough problems coping with the stresses of our ever changing climate without also having to cope with habitat loss caused by our increasing demands on the environment.'
Monitoring our wildlife
We made almost 22,000 recordings of plant and animal species at 24 BioBlitzes held along the coastline we look after. These findings help to track changes in our coastal wildlife.
A number of rare discoveries were made including the red-shanked carder bee at Birling Gap in Sussex. The bee, which has seen a decline in recent years, is now part of the team’s conservation management plan.