Why we need a year of the butterfly in 2013

The Met Office confirmation today that 2012 was the second wettest on record shows how difficult a year it was for nature.

Yes nature needs water and rain but it equally needs sunshine and warmth. Something which has been lacking in recent years.

Without those long barmy sunny days insects such as butterflies and bees and autumnal fruits (apples, blackberries), which depend on blossom being pollinated in particular, really struggle. Excess rain has also caused problems for breeding birds and many of our mammals. Low numbers of insects because of the wet weather is likely to have hit bats hard as they depend on them as a food source.

What we really need in 2013 is a return of the seasons. We’ve had warm springs, cold winters and long autumns but we have missed the full house of a quintessential British summer. Many of theses natural seasonal patterns however have happened in splendid isolation rather than in the same year.

The trend over the last 50 years for more torrential downpours isn’t good news for nature either. It seriously disrupts the cycle of wildlife as they try to adjust to the unpredictable. It also means that the dynamic of habitats is changing with greater levels of flooding. The 5-yearly puffin survey on the Farne Islands this year will determine how the soggy conditions affected population numbers as burrows were flooded last year.

After the year of the slug in 2012 what we really need this year is a year of the butterfly. These warmth loving insects are such majestic symbols of our weather. I saw a lot less of them gently fluttering through my garden last year. They are such great barometers for the nature of our years as they are affected by weather. Without sunshine they struggle; and they are sorely missed.

My hopes for nature in 2013 are that we get some predictability and respite from the rain. The sights and sounds of nature are so important for our well being that we need wildlife to have a good 2013 too.


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