Wildlife Increasingly Confused By Blurring Of The Seasons Thanks To Climate Change

The rhythm of the seasons in Britain "plunged into chaos" in 2017, threatening wildlife and potentially killing whales and other animals, the National Trust has warned.

According to the heritage charity, which manages over 250,000 hectares of countryside, the weather in 2017 was hotter overall and the seasons were more poorly demarcated, making for unusual behavior patterns among animals and new challenges for ecosystems.

Puffin
An Atlantic Puffin holds a mouthful of sand eels on the island of Skomer, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales July 18, 2017. Rebecca Naden/Reuters

"Looking at the bigger picture, 2017 has been one of—if not the hottest—years ever, and that's led to more unusual occurrences in the natural world, globally and here in the U.K.," said Matthew Oates, a nature expert at the Trust.

"At times, it feels like the seasons are becoming less distinctive, and that makes it extremely difficult to predict how nature will react.

"Certain species are good at adapting, which is great, whereas others are struggling—some of them badly.

"We need to give wildlife the space, time and where necessary, the support it needs, not only to survive, but to thrive."

The Trust said that relatively warm conditions early in the year combined with a damp summer led to "rampant vegetation growth," which "can be damaging for small annual plants, many insects and reptiles."

A "dry and mild" winter meant that amphibians registered a low spawn count, the trust said, while early signs of a good summer were then dashed with an extremely wet August, meaning that "many winged creatures" were killed, according to the Trust's research.

And, a Trust statement said, "Warmer waters have also caused squid and anchovies to return to UK seas, and are cited as a reason why several minke whales were found dead off the Suffolk coast."

Meanwhile Storm Ophelia, which hit Britain hard in October, saw thousands of giant Portuguese Man O' War beached on British shores, in what the Trust refers to as the "biggest infestation of the jellyfish-like creatures since 2003."

However, the Trust pointed out that some wildlife did well out of the unusual weather patterns. Among the benefits noted were "a prolific year for fungi" and a strong Autumn harvest of fruits, nuts and seeds.

Oates said, "These days, there are huge discrepancies between the winners and losers in the natural world.

"I'm extremely worried about some species—especially some of our insects and our native ash trees—but also buoyed by success stories that emerge at our places each year."