Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, and they can pose serious threats to wildlife. Animals may struggle to find water, food and shelter in the scorching temperatures, and some may even die from dehydration or heat stress. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can help wildlife survive and thrive during a heatwave, whether you have a garden, a balcony or just a window sill. Here are some tips to make a difference for your furry, feathered and scaly friends.
Water is essential for life, and even more so during a heatwave. Many animals rely on natural water sources such as ponds, streams and rivers, but these may dry up or become polluted in extreme heat. You can help by providing clean and fresh water in your outdoor space, using shallow dishes, birdbaths, fountains or mini ponds. Make sure to change the water regularly and keep it in the shade if possible. You can also add some stones, marbles or sticks to the water containers to help smaller animals climb out if they fall in. According to The Conversation1, adding a drip jug near the birdbath can also attract birds by making a splashing sound.
Another way to help wildlife during a heatwave is to offer them some shade and protection from the sun. You can do this by planting trees, shrubs and flowers that create natural habitats and cover for different species. You can also leave some areas of your garden uncut or wild, as this will provide food and shelter for insects, birds and small mammals. Alternatively, you can create artificial shelters using logs, rocks, bricks or boxes, and place them in cool and shady spots. Treehugger2 suggests that a lush garden can also provide shade for animals that may seek refuge under the plants.
Food can be scarce for wildlife during a heatwave, as plants may wilt and insects may die. You can help by watering your plants regularly and using mulch to keep the soil moist. This will benefit both the plants and the animals that feed on them. You can also supplement the natural food sources by putting out some birdseed, suet, fruit or nuts in your garden or balcony. However, be careful not to overfeed or attract unwanted pests, and avoid foods that are harmful or unhealthy for wildlife, such as bread, milk or chocolate.
In addition to helping wildlife during a heatwave, you can also prepare for the long term by creating habitats that support biodiversity and resilience. Many animals are moving or adapting to new areas as the climate changes, and they need suitable places to live and breed. You can create habitats by planting native species that attract pollinators and provide food and shelter for wildlife. You can also install nest boxes, bird feeders, insect hotels or hedgehog houses to encourage wildlife to visit or stay in your garden. Dorset Eye3 recommends choosing plants that are drought-tolerant and can cope with extreme weather conditions.
Reduce the heat
Finally, you can help wildlife by reducing the heat in your local environment. Urban areas tend to be hotter than rural areas due to the heat island effect, which is caused by buildings, roads and other surfaces that absorb and radiate heat. This can make life harder for wildlife that live in or near cities. You can reduce the heat island effect by planting more greenery, using reflective or permeable materials, installing green roofs or walls, or reducing your energy consumption and emissions. By doing so, you will not only help wildlife but also yourself and your community.
Heatwaves are challenging for both humans and animals, but we can all do our part to help wildlife cope and survive. By providing water, shelter, food, habitats and reducing the heat in your outdoor space, you can make a positive impact on the environment and enjoy the company of nature’s creatures.