However, not all is doom and gloom. Some species have taken advantage of warm late summer and autumn temperatures to grow and breed - I have certainly seen late bird-nesting activity, and while in south Devon last week (the SW is the warmest part of the country), while some trees were losing their leaves, others were budding as seen here.
|Hazel coming into bud in mid-November in south Devon|
|Panurgus calcaratus feeding on a yellow composite flower in warm sunny mid-November conditions in south Devon|
Overall, there are sadly probably more wildlife losers than winners, but what does the future hold? Well, nothing is certain, but an important study by Overland et al. (2012) does give some indications. Firstly, as many people have suggested, it isn't just 2012 when the summer has been cold and wet - this is a pattern that seems to have begun in 2007 when there was what appears to be a sustained shift in early summer Arctic winds. This change is linked to increased North American atmospheric blocking which ultimately leads to the southward movement of the jet stream that has been mentioned in TV weather forecasts. The study also looked at why this has happened and has unsurprisingly concluded that climate change is a likely candidate - in particular the melting of Arctic ice (particularly around Greenland, remembering that Greenland is politically European but geographically North American) which highlights the potential connectivity between Arctic climate and mid-latitude weather i.e. the Arctic heats up, the UK gets bad summers.
This is of course an ongoing story - research is undoubtedly ongoing to finesse some of the findings and explanations. As an academic, I find this fascinating but as someone interested in wildlife and environmental issues, I also find it deeply troubling, especially when the UK government seems to be trying to pull back from its low-carbon committments. However, I'll stop there lest the Ecology Spot becomes my political ranting zone!
Overland, J. E., Francis, J. A., Hanna, E. & Wang, M. (2012). The recent shift in early summer Arctic atmospheric circulation, Geophysical Research Letters 39, L19804 (6pp.)