THIS year’s ‘litany’ of weather extremes, including storms, drought and record-breaking heat, is set to become the new norm, the National Trust has warned.

The news comes after 50 per cent of new saplings planted last winter in Oxfordshire were hit by drought and extreme heat throughout the year and consequently lost.

In its annual review of the year, the conservation charity said 2022’s weather had been challenging for nature, from habitats scorched by wildfire to natterjack toads, butterflies, birds and bats hit by drought.

READ MORE: Charity donates more than £7,800 to good causes this year

It warned this year was a ‘stark illustration’ of the difficulties many of the UK’s species could face without more action to tackle climate change and help nature cope – with extremes likely to worsen as temperatures rise.

One stand out challenge was that the trees planted last winter, to store carbon and boost woodland habitat, were hit by the drought and extreme heat across the county Oxfordshire.

Luke Barley, trees and woodlands adviser at the National Trust, said the losses damaged the efforts to increase woodland cover – but they would adapt plans based on findings that mulching saplings and allowing natural regeneration of self-seeded trees helped them survive better.

READ MORE: Town council writes to Government to 'demand' BBC services are helped

Trees and shrubs did see a ‘mast year’ in many areas, where they produced an abundance of seeds and nuts, as a warm spring saw lots of insects pollinating blossom before the stress of the summer heat and drought encouraged them to produce a mass of seeds to help their genes survive, the Trust said.

Alongside the weather extremes, 2022 was also a devastating year for wild birds hit by avian flu, with thousands of seabirds dying in colonies such as on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, where they had returned to breed.

Oxford Mail: A National Trust ranger A National Trust ranger (Image: PA Media)

While there were some ‘winners’ this year, including good apple crops on many National Trust estates, and another record-breaking year for choughs breeding on its land in Cornwall, there were also many losers from the turbulent seasons, the charity said.

The hot summer and months of low rainfall dried up rivers, fragile chalk streams and ponds, damaged crops and natural habitats, and fuelled wildfires that destroyed landscapes.

Wildfires on National Trust land scorched areas including Zennor Head, Cornwall, Bolberry Down in south Devon, Baggy Point in north Devon and Studland in Dorset, destroying homes of species including rare sand lizards.

READ MORE: 'Not enough infrastructure for 144 new home plans', says council and residents

The dry conditions hit wildlife including natterjack toads, whose shallow ponds for breeding dried up, and bats had to be rescued in the heatwave.

Flying insects including many butterfly species and bumblebees had a poor year as flowering plants withered and died in the dry heat, and the lack of insects had knock-on impacts on birds such as swifts which rely on them to feed their young.