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Nature Notes September 2018


Nature Notes

What a hot summer we have had! The beast from the east is now a distant memory when we had prolonged freezing temperatures from about 26th February to 3rd March. The one thing that we can predict about climate change is that the weather will become less predictable and more extreme over indeterminate periods.

Nature reacts to these events in different ways. Many migrant birds such as swifts and house martins were late arriving on their breeding grounds this year. Many species were down in number. However, there will always be some individuals that will be well adapted to the prevailing conditions and will breed successfully.

The unusually warm seas have generated population explosions of jellyfish. The warm land has resulted in a die-back of mosses. This will be welcomed by gardeners who like grassy lawns as the grass is more resilient to drought and will green-up again once the rain comes.

Amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts have probably suffered badly, first from being frozen during February and March and then from desiccation during June, July and August. Fish too will have problems in small water-bodies such as ponds and small streams. However, there will always be other organisms that will consume these.

In nature, the idea of disaster does not really exist, just changes in conditions. What is bad for one group of organisms is usually beneficial to others. Many readers will remember the ‘hurricane’ of 16th October 1987 when about 17 million trees were blown down during the early hours of the morning. Many people called this a disaster. However, in the wild-wood, trees came down, but most did not die unless people went in and cut them up and removed them. Most trees remained alive and just grew from horizontal stems. Those that did die provided food for billions of fungi and the beetles that fed off the rotting wood. These went on to feed increasing numbers of woodpeckers and other animals which also increased in numbers. Meanwhile, the clearings created by the fallen trees caused an abundance of woodland plants such as bluebells.

Dr.Martyn Stenning