2021 weather and wildlife review
The climate crisis presented serious challenges for nature across the UK this year. A warm winter, low levels of rain and gale-force winds all contributed to various natural disasters, causing devastation across precious landscapes and affecting the wildlife they support.
Find out how birds, animals, insects, plants and trees fared through the seasons and what we're doing to heal climate harm.
Despite the weather seeming uneventful at times, 2021 was not an easy year for UK wildlife. A handful of extreme weather events and untimely seasonal conditions wreaked havoc on moorland, coastal, and woodland habitats.
Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation and Restoration Ecology at the National Trust, said: 'Climate change is making some forms of extreme weather events the new normal. Heatwaves and heavy rainfall are becoming more frequent and more intense.
'What we’re seeing in the UK with the impacts of wildfires and severe storms such as Arwen and Barra, is how climate change is altering our landscapes forever.'
Spring and summer
An unusually dry March and even drier April saw wildfires sweeping through the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and Marsden Moor in Yorkshire, burning 200 hectares and 520 hectares of moorland respectively. The fires destroyed rare plants, affected already declining bird and hare populations and scorched important peat soils that lock up carbon.
Meanwhile, prolonged periods of dry weather and rainfall combined with persistent coastal erosion caused a 300m cliff fall at Golden Cap on the Dorset coast, the largest slippage here for 60 years.
Late frosts in April and May also affected apple blossom in northern parts of England and Northern Ireland. At Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire temperatures dipped to -12C, resulting in the worst apple crop for 20 years.
This cool spring meant warmer summer temperatures didn't boost populations of butterflies, which emerged late due to the unseasonal conditions.
The summer of 2021 is expected to be within the top ten warmest on record, further evidence of a long-term trend of rising temperatures.
" We finish the year with many places changed forever by the recent storms, demonstrating the power of nature, the changing climate and how our role in its future is even more critical"
Autumn and winter
After a settled and warm September, it was feared that dry conditions would cause some trees to shed their leaves early and jeopardise the display of autumn colour. Fortunately, there was just enough rain to ensure the trees weren't overly stressed and we saw a vibrant array of colours from late October.
But the season was brought to an abrupt end. In November, Storm Arwen ripped through the north of the country, causing widespread devastation. The storm toppled hundreds of irreplaceable trees, primarily in Wales, the Lake District and Northumberland. The effects of the damage will be felt for generations.
Winters are getting milder and it was no different at the start of 2021. Warm and wet conditions allowed tree diseases, such as ash dieback, to take hold with thousands of trees affected and having to be felled.