Wildlife at risk as drought spreads

Monday 16th April 2012

Image: Zsuzsanna BirdImage: Zsuzsanna Bird

As environmental drought is declared in South West England and the Midlands, The Wildlife Trusts are reporting an increasing number of negative impacts on wildlife.

The Environment Agency’s declaration of drought comes as Dorset Wildlife Trust warns of streams drying up in the county, and wildfire damages a nature reserve managed by Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

Helen Perkins, Living Landscape Development Manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “As the drought conditions worsen, we are hearing of a new crisis for wildlife each day. Dorset Wildlife Trust has reported that sections of winterbournes, small streams which normally flow in winter, did not flow at all last winter, so fish couldn’t spawn there. In some places although fish did spawn, their eggs were threatened with exposure by the drying conditions so water levels had to be raised. Now, the fry could still become entrapped or dry out.

“Good weed growth is needed for their food but low flow restricts this growth, which is a worry.

“These conditions are also leading to additional threats to wildlife, for example through increased fire risk. Sadly, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Roseannon Downs nature reserve recently suffered an arson attack, likely to have destroyed butterfly larvae and reptiles such as slow worms and lizards. With wildlife under so much pressure, it’s crucial we all take steps to protect it by reducing water use whenever we can.

The Environment Agency has warned the drought could last beyond 2012, and is planning ahead to meet the challenges of water shortages.

Helen Perkins continued:
“With an extended period of drought on the cards we must look further ahead and develop long term solutions to water stress, likely to become a more regular feature of life across large areas of the UK. Government must ensure sustainable approaches to water use are integral to the planning and building of new homes and businesses. Water metering and water efficiency measures should become the norm for all new and existing properties.

“We should not wait until the next drought crisis before we implement the more fundamental and longer-term changes that are needed.”

More information

The Wildlife Trusts have produced a factsheet on helping wildlife in the garden cope with drought. To download it visit: www.wildlifetrusts.org/drought-and-wildlife.

The Wildlife Trusts are supporting the Love your River campaign, backed by Defra, the National Trust, the Environment Agency, Keep Britain Tidy, water companies and Waterwise. The campaign looks to promote the value and benefits of our rivers to our everyday life to inspire people to value their local rivers and take action to look after them. www.defra.gov.uk/loveyourriver/.