Mild winters ‘causing mismatch for insects, animals and plants’

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INCREASINGLY mild winters which cause flowers to bloom and insects to come out of hibernation early are threatening the Island’s natural ecological cycles and biodiversity, an environmentalist has warned.

With the air temperature having been above average for this time of year, daffodils and other plants have been springing up and blossoming across the Island weeks earlier than usual.

Freelance ecologist John Pinel (pictured right) said that insects were also emerging sooner than normal and that there was a danger that natural cycles were falling out of sync, which, he said, could threaten other wildlife, such as birds.

‘All sorts of things are blossoming right now. It’s been a very mild winter and mild winters do generally generate this sort of thing. I had a butterfly out in my garden yesterday, so that must have woken up from hibernation,’ he said.

‘The problem is that this causes a mismatch between insects, animals and the flowering times of plants. Birds, for example, time their arrival back to our shores for breeding in the spring, when the insects are just starting to come out.

‘But of course, if the plants are flowering earlier, the insects need to be out and about earlier as well. Plus some of them won’t be, so will miss the early-flowering plants. If there’s this mismatch between the environmental conditions, which provide food, and the timing of natural events, such as bird migration, there’s going to be more problems for our wildlife. And that just exacerbates the terrible biodiversity crisis that the world is seeing at the moment.’

Mr Pinel added that the agriculture industry would also face issues because of the shift in natural cycles.

‘Jersey exports a lot of daffodils to America and other places who want to buy them at Easter and not now. If they’re flowering too early, that’s a huge problem for the farmers,’ he said.

Mr Pinel also explained that there had been a shift towards milder winters in recent years. This could not be specifically blamed on climate change, he said.

He added that global warming was likely to worsen the issue.

‘The atmosphere is definitely warming. We can’t say day-to-day it’s a climate-change-generated thing, because the weather and the climate are very different things,’ he said. ‘But if there’s a general ongoing change in our climate, it’s very likely that these events will become more and more exacerbated than they are at the moment.

‘The past few years, the flowering times have been earlier and earlier every year.’

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