What No April Showers

What no April Showers! – has climate change arrived?

This April has been very hot and dry. The lack of April showers have been a talking point, in fact, it has been the warmest since records began almost 350 years ago. For many parts of the UK it was also their driest April. The South East has had 2mm of rainfall so far against the normal 55mm. Consequently farmers on the IW have had to water fields much earlier than normal. Taking the past year as a whole it has also been the hottest 12-month period since 1659. The Footprint Trust backs the overwhelming scientific opinion that Climate Change is to blame.

There is a danger that the ending of the hosepipe ban could give the wrong impression. Says Ray Harrington-Vail of the Footprint Trust’s Waterworks project.

“It is still important to save water. Many aquifers are still low following years of little rainfall. Every time a tap is running pollution is caused by the pumping of that water. The lack of April showers means that reservoirs are not being replenished and rivers are low.”

Our changing weather is not just an inconvenience but it could effect the survival of our native wildlife. Climate change is already affecting the natural world. Swallows are now migrating to Britain a week earlier on average than they did in the 1970s. Hedgehogs, and House Martins are believed to be in decline. To find out what’s happening the Isle of Wight Natural History Society is asking for your help. A reporting card is available from local libraries. Or visit their website.
Hawthorn has been a symbol of May since ancient times but this year it was flowering in early April. Flowers such as snowdrops are blooming earlier in the spring, oaks are leafing earlier and butterflies such as holly blues are appearing earlier. Scientists recently found that almost two-thirds of European butterflies have expanded their ranges northward and pulled back at the southern edge of their ranges.
Oaks will find it difficult to survive in the south of England and bluebells will fail to thrive due to lack of light, as trees come into leaf earlier.
The impact of climate change on biodiversity in Britain will be negative. If the world takes strong action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, we should be able to limit climate change to less than a 2°C average temperature rise. Nevertheless, a two degree rise will still have a marked impact on the UK’s diverse ecosystems.
Research shows that the golden plover, a typical upland bird, is nesting significantly earlier than 20 years ago. Dr James Pearce-Higgins, Research Biologist at the RSPB said: ‘The earliest hatching plover chicks, which normally have the best chance of survival, could in future struggle to find food, reducing their overall breeding success.’
Wetland birds such as redshank will find their habitats threatened by climate change: saltmarshes will become inundated by the sea while moors and wet grasslands will dry up during hot summers.
In 2005, water shortages in the south of England have already taken a toll on breeding wading birds. Numbers of breeding redshanks, lapwings and snipewaders have dropped by up to 80% at five RSPB nature reserves in Sussex and Kent as there is simply not enough water available to maintain their wetland habitats.

The Footprint Trust recently praised the IW Council on one of its green initiatives. – ‘One Million Blooms’ which is creating drought-tolerant landscaping in our parks and open spaces. This investment will radically reduce water usage and the associated costs. Many of the plants being chosen also benefit birds, butterflies and bats.

‘Gardeners wanting inspiration on what to plant should visit Ventnor Botanic Gardens, the largest drought–tolerant garden in the south of England.’ Said Mr Harrington-Vail

Look out for the Footprint Trust’s Saving Water leaflet …in local libraries and help centres. You can also view it on the Footprint Trust website.

Get involved
You and your family, school, church or business can get involved in the Waterworks project. Become a Water-Watcher by looking for ways in which to save water.

· Design posters for your washroom or toilets
· Place Southern Water ‘Save-a-Flush’ bags in large cisterns
· Create a drought-tolerant garden
· Report leaking taps and pipes

The Footprint Trust can visit Isle of Wight schools, churches and community buildings and give you ideas on water saving.

For more details please email info@footprint-trust.co.uk

The WaterWorks initiative is supported by The IW AONB Sustainable Development Fund, along with the IWEP EU Leader+ programme, the Ernest Cook Trust and Southern Water.