The Standard’s new RSPB columnist Laura Harpham looks at how the current drought is affecting birds and wildlife at the local nature reserves.
IT FEELS odd to sit here writing about a drought when there are raindrops on the office windows. It’s easy to confuse weather with water-levels, in the same way that people confuse weather with climate change when they say ‘what happened to global warming?’ when it snows.
Despite the recent rainfall you will have heard that we are in a state of drought. I’m trying to do my bit by watering my flowers with washing-up water (who needs plant food when you’ve got dregs of korma sauce and granola?) and any excuse not to wash my car is very welcome to be honest.
As people, with our developed infrastructure and emergency plans, we’re able to cope with unusual conditions without too much inconvenience. We’re highly adaptable; it’s one of the reasons we’re top of the evolutionary ladder.
Unfortunately, not all of nature can say the same. In the past, when resources like water ran short, ecosystems could adapt. Whole species could relocate to find what they needed. It still happens in many parts of the world today; look at elephants on the African savannah, trekking hundreds of miles to find a fresh watering hole.
But what would happen if we shrank the savannah? Take away the space to roam in search of fresh resources and when there’s a problem, like a drought, where do they find what they need?
It’s a far flung example but wildlife in the UK is suffering the same problems. With healthy natural habitats shrinking, until they are just islands in a sea of wildlife-barren land, they have nowhere to go when problems arise.
Nature reserves like RSPB Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore are great for nature, and a real haven for birds and other wildlife – but what we really need is for the whole of the UK to be fit for wildlife.
If this drought means the islands of healthy nature have problems, where is the wildlife going to go?
The Government has recognised this problem and last month launched the Nature Improvement Areas (NIA) programme, aimed at making sure we have healthy corridors of natural landscape for wildlife to move through and for people to enjoy.
The RSPB has a similar programme, called Futurescapes, as do other conservation organisations.
But what can you do? Well, plenty as it turns out, from letting your grass grow a little longer installing solar panels. Lots of little steps made by people like you add up to a huge impact.
Go online to www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup or come down to your local reserve at Frampton or Freiston (it’s free!) to find out more.