Volatile weather led to an influx of exciting migrant species in 2019 but is putting pressure on some homegrown flora and fauna, according to an annual audit of the UK’s environment.

Many unusual birds and butterflies ended up on UK soil over the past 12 months, whisked in by high winds or attracted by unseasonably hot spells, and there was good news for native grey seals, dragonflies and wildflowers, the survey from the National Trust reveals.

But the erratic conditions made it a challenging year for a string of other resident species, including water voles, terns, toads and puffins.

Ben McCarthy, the head of nature conservation and restoration ecology at the National Trust, warned that the changing weather patterns could lead to some species becoming extinct unless action is taken.

He said: “Sightings of migrant insects and birds are becoming more common. This is a result of our changing climate. Although this can seem exciting, the obvious flipside is how these changes will start to affect some of our native species already under pressure from intensive land use, habitat fragmentation and climate change.

“More mobile species might be able to escape unfavourable conditions, but they’d have to find similar conditions elsewhere. The biggest threat is to less mobile species and those that are specialists.”

Warm weather in the early months of 2019 led to an influx of migrant butterflies, moths and dragonflies from the south and east.

Painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterfly 

However, the picture was grim for other species.

The fires on Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire damaged 700 acres of precious habitat for mountain hares and ground-nesting birds such as curlew and twite, undoing years of peat restoration work.

McCarthy said the audit brought home the importance of making sure current habitats are protected and new ones created. He added: “If our wildlife doesn’t have anywhere to move to as temperatures rise and the weather changes, over the coming years we will inevitably see more and more species at risk of becoming extinct.”

Keith Jones, a climate change expert at the National Trust said: “This year’s changeable weather is a symptom of the warming climate. The more our temperatures go up – the more erratic our weather will become. This will force changes to the life cycles of many species as food webs are knocked out of sync.”

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