Search

Lack of April rainfall has devastating effect on wildlife and risk of fire

PUBLISHED: 09:06 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:06 09 May 2017

Dunwich Heath. Picture: LEE ACASTER

Dunwich Heath. Picture: LEE ACASTER

Archant

A lack of rainfall in Suffolk last month saw a drop of almost 70% in comparison to last year – causing devastating effects to wildlife and increasing the chances of fires catching and spreading.

The fire at Southwold Common on Sunday afternoon.    Picture: JOHN NOTTAGE The fire at Southwold Common on Sunday afternoon. Picture: JOHN NOTTAGE

Just 14.5mm of rain fell last month according to Weatherquest forecaster Adam Dury – the average for the month is 44.6mm.

On Sunday, the effect of this dry weather was laid bare as flames ripped through gorse and reed beds at Southwold Golf Club.

A few scattered showers are set for Thursday and the weekend, but Mr Dury says these will not be enough to make a difference.

“Even with that rain there will be warmer temperatures which will dry the ground out,” he said.

Simone Bullion, senior conservation advisor at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said fires could be devastating to animals and birds.

She said: “They cannot get away from grass fires and you will have nesting birds and reptiles on Suffolk heathland as well as hedgehogs. All these animals will not be able to get away from a fire.

“The dry weather can be bad for wildlife anyway.

“Birds are nesting and are struggling to find enough food.

“Animals like hedgehogs depend on earthworms being at the surface for food but they go deeper into the soil in dry weather.”

In Dunwich, the National Trust takes steps to reduce the risk of fires by cutting fire breaks into the heathland. The bare strips of land help slow the spread of fire and provide access routes for fire crews. The trust also has an on-site water bowser and patrols the area to check for hazards.

Richard Gilbert, senior ranger at Dunwich Heath, said: “Once a fire has established on dry ground, it becomes very difficult to control, so being vigilant and reporting smoke as soon as you see it can makes a big difference.”

The region’s farmers are also being affected by the dry weather, with many having to irrigate their crops early.

Brian Finnerty of the National Farmers Union (NFU) said rain-fed crops such as cereals are beginning to suffer from low soil moisture levels. He said the NFU is working closely with the Environment Agency and water companies to keep an eye on how the weather develops.

An Anglian Water spokeswoman said: “So far, this winter and early spring has been drier than usual, however we’re in a good position, and a single dry winter doesn’t give us immediate cause for concern.”

FIRE SAFETY

Richard Gilbert, senior ranger at Dunwich Heath, gave these tips for preventing countryside fires during dry weather spells.

He said: “One of the main things people can do to prevent the risk of fires is not to have open fires or barbecues on the beach or heath.

“Gorse is a very combustible material so even if the barbecue is on the beach, the wind can be unpredictable and it doesn’t take many embers being blown onto the cliff vegetation to start a fire.

“Chinese lanterns can be a real risk as once they are lit and in the air, there is no way of controlling where they land and being really careful with cigarettes is also essential – again on dry heathland a fire can start quickly.

“On a hot day, discarded bottles and glass can heat up quickly and have the potential to cause a fire, so a lot of fire prevention is about common sense and not leaving rubbish behind you.”

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Other news

Police are appealing for witnesses after a woman was left with serious head injuries following a crash on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

18 minutes ago

Plans for a new discounted railcard for 26 to 30-year-olds will be trialled in East Anglia from next month.

Yesterday, 19:28

Volunteers from the Friends of Nicholas Everitt Park recently took time out from their weekly efforts to maintain the popular park in Oulton Broad as a special service was held.

Yesterday, 18:11

A Christmas tree in the heart of a community will be the focus of festive celebrations as people mark the start of yuletide.

Most Read

Yesterday, 16:40

The family of a Lowestoft labourer who died of asbestos-related cancer are appealing for his former workmates to come forward and help them understand how he could have developed the disease.

Read more
Yesterday, 09:57

Fire has torn through a Kessingland restaurant overnight, causing extensive smoke damage and spreading to the roof.

Read more
Facebook
Yesterday, 17:01

Police have released a CCTV image of a man they would like to speak to after £300 was stolen from an elderly woman in Kessingland.

Read more

Police are appealing for witnesses after a woman was left with serious head injuries following a crash on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

Read more
Addenbrooke's Hospital
Yesterday, 18:11

A Christmas tree in the heart of a community will be the focus of festive celebrations as people mark the start of yuletide.

Read more

Later in Life

cover

Click here to view
the Later in Life
supplement

View

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 8°C

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Lowestoft Journal
e-edition today

Subscribe

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter