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Nature Notes - December 2016



Nature Notes

The first frosts have happened in Sussex, and the first snow has fallen further north.  The first Waxwings have arrived on the East Coast of England in search of our berries.  The British Isles has a unique climate, or at least lots of different types of weather.  It all seems to depend on which way the wind blows.  We are roughly on the same latitude as Moscow and Saskatchewan which frequently get temperatures lower than minus 20 Celsius. It is the Atlantic Conveyor and frequent SW winds that keep us so mild.  However, they also keep us rather wet!

We are currently living through the Anthropocene period, named as an alternative to the Holocene which means ‘Entirely-recent’, however, Anthropocene means Human-recent (geological era).  This is because there are currently 7 billion of us roaming and changing the planet.  No other animal of compatible size comes near to that in numbers, and probably never has.  As a consequence we Humans are changing the nature of the surface of the globe like never before, through anthropogenic (human generating) influences such as deforestation, combustion, urbanisation, intensive farming etc. A result is that there is now 400 parts per million CO­2 in the atmosphere for the first time since Humans have existed.  This is historic and worrying as it will be almost impossible to reverse that.  The consequences include more moisture in the atmosphere causing more storms and rain in general, and more draught in the tropics and less ice at the poles. We all know it is happening, even if some folk such as Donald Trump do not accept it.  The sea temperatures are rising slowly and surely.  Even the sea off Brighton sometimes gets to 20 degrees Celsius during late summer.

All this is also changing the behaviour of animals and the growth of plants.  A few swallows now overwinter in the West Country, and more continental species of insects and birds are being found in Britain more frequently such as the Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

All we can do is to try to be a bit more careful about our personal environmental footprint, such as going for fuel efficient forms of transport, heating and food production.  We can also support initiatives for nature conservation, and even manage our gardens for wildlife by exchanging fences for hedges, planting more shrubs and, if possible, trees and maybe installing a pond?

Dr. Martyn Stenning