Searing summer temperatures in Britain have not only parched the earth and dried up rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but also seen trees shed their leaves early.
Instead of green, many gardens, parks and forests are now a sea of orange, yellow, red and brown, with thick carpets of leaves on the ground.
Early leaf fall — also known as “false fall” — is a sign of stress as trees shed their leaves to retain moisture.
However, experts say that while older trees with deep roots can withstand the drier conditions, younger, less established ones could be at risk.
“The trees release the hormones they use in the fall to just retreat and ensure their survival,” said Rosie Walker of the conservation organization Woodland Trust.
“They’re going to continue like this for a few more years, but it’s going to affect our trees if we’re not very careful,” she told BBC radio.
Temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time in the UK in July, with the month being the driest on record in many parts of southern and eastern England.
Climate change has been blamed for the searing heatwave that has led to droughts being declared and the use of water hoses being banned in some areas to conserve water.
The Woodland Trust said fallen leaves were most likely from birch, silver birch and mountain ash.
“We saw the silver birch first turn on August 12, which is incredibly early,” Walker said, adding that other species had also shed their leaves.
The Trust, meanwhile, said it recorded its earliest appearance of ripe wild blackberries – usually an autumn fruit – on June 28.
That and the premature ripening of other berries and nuts could hit wildlife like small mammals and birds, which store energy for the cold winter months in September and October.
Animals like dormouse consume high-fat foods like hazelnuts and other hedge crops in the fall, but could face problems if they’re gone by August.
Steve Hussey, of Devon Wildlife Trust in south-west England, said: “Nature’s timing is everything to our wildlife.
“The climate crisis is bringing seasonal weather patterns that our wildlife is simply not adapted to.
“Our long, hot summer and ‘false fall’ will affect many species into the true fall months and beyond.”
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