Fish ‘suffocating in the heat’: Exeter experts comment on UK’s hottest June - University of Exeter

University of Exeter scientists have commented on the environmental impacts of the UK’s hottest June on record.

According to the Met Office, the UK average mean temperature in June was 15.8°C – the highest in records going back to 1884, and 0.9°C above the previous record.

This week, the Wildlife Trusts said June’s hot weather caused unprecedented deaths of fish in rivers and disturbed insects and plants.

Researchers at Exeter – which has a team of over 1,500 environment and climate experts – have echoed these concerns.

Professor Richard ffrench-Constant, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “Just like us, fish need oxygen, but warm water holds less oxygen. This means that not only are fish facing a cocktail of sewage, fertilisers and pharmaceuticals – in rivers already devoid of oxygenating plants – but now they are effectively suffocating in the heat.”

He added: “The hottest June on record has been strangely quiet for insects. So, Hawthorn blossom was amazing but completely devoid of any insects. Now that it’s July, insects are picking up again. I suspect that insects at specific life stages (eg caterpillars) are very prone to drought. Although the ‘June gap’ in butterflies is well known (the gap between the early and late species) this year June was quiet for all insect groups. The persistent high pressure over the UK may also have contributed as it could have stalled the usual influx of hoverflies and the usual insect migrants from the continent. Low numbers of insects in June would be expected to directly affect bird nesting success as this is the stage when they are actively feeding young.”

Professor Richard Brazier, Co-Director of the Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW), said: “We have seen six of the warmest years ever in the last decade, and it is no coincidence that we have also seen a number of drought years, both this year and last year.”

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Posted On: 05/07/2023

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