Call James on 07973 796 406 for further information

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Summer 2018.. Its hot.. Its dry and we aren’t the only ones struggling!

Water shortages affect wildlife and long spells of hot weather can make this worse, damaging habitats from moorland and woodland – and everything in-between. Drought threatens the survival of birds, mammals, invertebrates, amphibians and plants.

Climate change predictions suggest that there will be lower summer rainfall and higher temperatures, making droughts more frequent and severe; within the next 20 years most summers will be on a par with what we have experienced in early summer 2018. Without urgent efforts to manage water more sustainably, the current pressures on wildlife will grow.

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Prolonged hot dry weather quickly dries up soils, denying young or shallow-rooted trees access to water, this is particularly devastating within thin chalky soils which are prone to extensive drought-related damage. Frequent and/ or prolonged droughts in the future would be likely to lead to a progressive loss of beech woodland from these landscapes, locally The Chilterns would be gravely affected.

As the drought takes hold – as we have seen across England already this year – heath and moorland habitats dry out extremely quickly, these rare and biodiverse habitats become susceptible to not only drought but fire damage (whether from accident, arson or lightning). Hundreds of hectares of mature heath have been damaged by wildfire, and this takes many years to recover. Isolated populations of rare reptiles may be totally lost, with little chance of recovery.

Moorlands which have a significant cover of peat in the form of blanket bogs are home to important populations of breeding birds, they also help regulate river flow and lock up carbon dioxide. Prolonged drought dries them out; the peat crumbles and turns to dust and large quantities of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, contributing further to climate change. Water that drains from these damaged bogs is laden with sediment, adding millions of pounds to the cost of treating drinking water.

Lack of water in the farmed countryside has also added to the sharp decline of once common farm birds like Song Thrushes and Tree Sparrows. Many of the small, wet areas on farms (mill ponds, puddles at field edges, and ditches etc) have disappeared in recent years. Drought conditions make life for these species even more difficult; without conservation action, these could lead to further decreases in these species.

Many bat species are associated with watery places; they rely on the rich flying insect life associated with rivers, ponds and wetlands. Drought dries out these habitats, making food scarce and therefore rearing young is difficult in these conditions. The drop in water levels of ditches and rivers during these periods of drought means the burrows of water voles are no longer underwater; this is likely to lead to the loss of populations to predators and a further decline of a creature that is a stalwart of our streams and rivers.

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Amphibians are totally dependent on freshwater habitats for much of their life cycle. If these are lost or reduced in quality through drought, then amphibians cannot spawn, and when eggs are hatched few tadpoles survive. Garden ponds have become very important to amphibians, as the countryside wetland areas have decreased over the last few decades. In times of drought, it is important that they are not allowed to dry up – refilling is allowed in areas subject to a hose pipe ban. We have more on this subject in our blog specifically about managing pond wildlife.

Rivers that once meandered according to patterns dictated by rainfall and the land, now run to the sea confined within banks, straightened out and funnelled along paths which are convenient for us. Almost every field is now efficiently drained, so that water moves swiftly and efficiently in to streams predetermined for productivity not biodiversity and wildlife. Huge areas of land were drained quite recently, with 20,000 square kilometres of wet grasslands drained between 1940 and 1980 alone.

While water is pumped and drained away from agricultural land, billions of litres of water are daily taken out of rivers and ground-waters to supply our growing population, with an ever-expanding need for water.

We are all able to conserve water and thus in a small way help alleviate the pressure on these vital systems; the more water we conserve the better this is for wildlife. Frequent, prolonged water shortages in natural environments can be devastating to already threatened species.

There are a few really simple ways of being water savvy…

  • Using the ‘short flush’ in your toilet will, when suitable, save up to 3000 litres of water per person per year
  • Turn off the tap whilst brushing your teeth will save approximately 24 litres of water per person per day
  • Doing only full loads of laundry and using a quick wash cycle
  • Using ‘A’ rated washing machines and dishwashers means they are more energy and water efficient
  • Boiling only the water you need in the kettle, again saving water and electricity
  • Having a water butt or two in the garden saves using the hose and you are still able to water the garden even if a hose pipe ban is issued!

For more information on water conservation visit www.waterwise.org.ukor www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Research in this blog is taken from reports by www.rspb.org.uk,www.wildlifetrsuts.org www.wwt.org.ukwww.wwf.org.uk

 

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James Gillies MIgrAM

Suite C, Unit 1, Eagle Industrial Estate, Witney, Oxon, OX28 4YR

Phone: 07973  796 406
Email: Send me and email

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