UK wildlife is struggling to cope as erratic and unseasonal weather has taken its toll for a second consecutive year, the UK National Trust said.
Insects such as butterflies and bees, as well as the birds that feed on them, were all hit by the second consecutive summer of ''foul and abusive'' weather, and could be in danger if there is a third, it said. The trust says species under threat include puffins, marsh fritillary butterflies and lesser horseshoe bats.
Studies of the past year by the trust's conservation experts show the impact of the weather and how some wildlife has become out-of-step with the usual seasonal patterns:
- Snowdrops and red admiral butterflies were first spotted in January, earlier than normal.
- Bees were hit hard in April by frost and snow
- Rain in late May caused many birds' nests to fail, including those of the blue and great tits, because of the lack of insect food
- It was a poor summer for migrant insects - butterflies, moths, hoverflies, ladybirds and dragonflies - because of the wet and cold June
- In July, puffin numbers on the Farne Islands were down 35 per cent on what they had been five years earlier
- The common autumn cranefly, usually in pest proportions in September, was all but absent
Matthew Oates, the Trust's conservation adviser, said: ''A cold, late spring, a wet summer with few sunny days and the long dry autumn has shown how dependent our wildlife is on the climate. Many iconic species closely associated with the four seasons are having to cope with higher incidents of poor weather as our climate becomes more unpredictable.''
Many species were confused by last year's warm winter, which caused them to flit ''in and out of hibernation mode'' - a problem that could recur if temperatures rise in the new year as drastically as predicted. ''After two very poor years in a row we desperately need a good summer in 2009 - otherwise it's going to look increasingly grim for a wealth of wildlife in the UK,'' Oates added.
Of the few plants flourishing in the wet weather, many are harmful such as ragwort, a weed poisonous to horses, which have sprung up in the newly drenched spaces left by droughts in 2006. Many trees have been struggling to put out berries after the bitterly cold spring this year.
Oates said, ''There's no such thing as a normal year, but there do seem to be more extreme, adverse events at inappropriate times of the year.'' He said that a third year of bad weather could to ''immense damage'' and lead to certain flora and fauna dying out in some areas.