Have you seen the Butterflies of Snowdon?

It must have been in 1965 that my geography teacher and another school teacher took about thirty of us children to Barmouth in what was then called Merionethshire in North Wales. We went to study geography, with clip boards and strong shoes, out of Poplar into the Welsh countryside. As part of the fun we climbed up (or rather I should say strolled up) Wales’ second largest mountain, Cader Idris, and from there and from other parts of our journey around the county we saw Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon which in Welsh is called Yr Wyddfa and which means “tumulus”.

Snowdon is an impressive peak if you live in England; I daresay those who live in the Himalayas or the Andes would think of it as a mere foothill, but it is a Welsh mountain and live all mountains has its own micro climate and ecosystem. The Environmental Change Network has been investigating for fifteen years how the climate and ecosystem of Snowdon (and other places) is changing and is able to distinguish between short term variations and longer term more profound trends that affect Snowdon.

This is important work; as I keep stress if we are to understand climate change properly we have to distinguish between weather and climate; The ECN’s long term monitoring enables us to make this distinction as well as helping us understand the effct of pollution on biodiversity.

They find that there is less acid rain affecting the mountain, which is consistent with the reducing amounts of sulphur and nitrous oxide pollution that the United Kingdom emits. Unfortunately the reduction is these emissions do not seem to be reflected in the recovery of plants that traditional grew on Snowdon; there are fewer of these and more of non native plants.

The trend in Snowdon (which has had plenty of snow in recent years but not this year) is that the climate is getting warmer and wetter. There are more butterflies on Snowdon and butterflies on Yr Wyddfa and butterflies enjoy warmer weather.

The ECN survey covered an area of 700 hectares and found the mean annual temperature to be 7.4⁰C and a mean annual rainfall of 3765mm.


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