2015: The year of the jellyfish

2015 was another challenging year for wildlife, with many new issues coming to the fore, say experts at the National Trust as part of its annual weather and wildlife review.

The conservation charity, which looks after almost 250,000 hectares of land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, conducts the review across its places every year to help paint a picture of how the year’s weather has affected the nation’s wildlife against a long-term backdrop of decline for 60% of species in the UK.

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How is the mild weather affecting nature?

The autumn and winter of 2015 has seen some unseasonably mild weather with day time temperatures remaining in double figures far longer than usual – and even night-time temperatures have remained very high. 2015 is now the warmest year on record, thought to be the result of man-made climate change and El Nino. This mild weather has affected wildlife and the natural world at many of our places.

Narcissus 'California' growing in March at Cotehele, Cornwall.At Polesden Lacey in Surrey daffodils and daisies are in bloom, bats, which would normally be hibernating, are still flying around, as are insects such as bumblebees, ladybirds and wasps.

Strawberries are still fruiting in gardens in Devon and in the Chilterns our ranger team has seen flowers on holly trees, cherry trees in blossom, rooks starting to nest and the grass continuing to grow.

Crowd pleasers such as snowdrops and daffodils are flowering at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. While on the South Downs, catkins are already opening on hazel trees and hawthorn has been spotted coming into flower.

Pete Brash, an animal ecologist for the National Trust, said: “The weather has been ridiculously mild which is having an impact on our wildlife. We’ve seen swifts, swallows and sand martins and there are a number of flowers in bloom very early including  dandelions and even cowslips.

“As we’re seeing the effects of climate change on our winters, nature is simply taking a gamble. If the swallows, for instance, can find sufficient food to maintain good condition then they can be first on the best territories ahead of breeding season next year. But, they have to weigh up the associated risks of staying and not being able to find sufficient food and warmth versus the risks of travelling 3000 miles.

“What could be a worry, however, is that long-range forecasts are predicting that January might see considerably colder weather on the way, which could cause problems.”

Newton’s pips take space tour with Peake

Apple seeds from the famous tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity have been sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the latest mission which saw British astronaut Tim Peake blast off to join this week.

Newton's apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor. Credit Ann Blackett and National Trust

Newton’s apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor. Credit Ann Blackett

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Response to MP’s vote on fracking

Yesterday MPs voted in Parliament to allow fracking in National Parks.

Here is the response of the National Trust to this vote:

“The decision by MP’s to allow fracking to happen under National Parks does nothing to allay our real concerns about the impact of fracking on some of the most precious landscapes in the UK. The Trust stands by its call for the Government to rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas – protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks – and make them frack-free zones. There is a need to ensure that regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment.”

“There is an urgent need for more evidence about the impact of fracking on the hydrology, ecology and geology of landscapes. This is needed for informed decision-making about any future for fracking in the UK.”

The National Trust is a member of a wider coalition of ten organisations that published a report called ‘Are we fit to frack?

The NT’s Keith Jones in Paris

My first day at the climate change Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris was one of acclimatisation and finding out where things where. Coffee sellers – check, travel pass – check. Press rooms where groups of nations would be committing to stuff – check.

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Keith Jones at the COP in Paris

 

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National Trust response to proposed relaxation of planning protections for the green belt

Further to the relaxation of planning protections for the green belt proposed yesterday by the government, the National Trust said:

“We are concerned and will be looking closely at the implications of what is being proposed.

“Green Belt prevents urban sprawl, keeping town and villages distinct and special, which is why we think it is important to maintain the protections it offers.

“We don’t have urban sprawl in England in the same way that other countries do because of our history of development planning, and the designation of Green Belts in particular, and we weaken that enduring protection at our peril.

“As a nation we need more houses and many of these can be built in cities. We should be aiming for sustainable growth, where we make the best use of available brownfield sites. Any release of undeveloped land for housing should be considered carefully, as a community prepares its local plan.”

The impact of Storm Desmond on National Trust places

Storm Desmond has swept across the north of England affecting many National Trust places in the Lake District and a much loved woodland area in Northumberland.

More than a month’s rainfall fell in some parts of Cumbria with records being broken.

Our teams are out assessing the impact of the floods and working with our tenant farmers and supporting the local communities.

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