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Squirrelpox (SQPV) - how it spreads.

Squirrelpox (SQPV) – how it spreads.

by Chris ~ 22 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

It is well known that the native populations of the red squirrel have been depleted in significant numbers over the last century  This is in part due to habitat loss, and competition with and displacement by the grey squirrel but also the insidious squirrel pox virus has been at work. Research workers at the Queen’s University, Belfast have been investigating how this virus passes from animal to animal.

Though grey squirrels carry the virus, they seem to be relatively immune to its effects.  However, they pass out the virus in their urine.   The virus can persist in the environment for some time, especially if the conditions are dry and warm. Read more…

old forest

Białowieża- “a national treasure for Poland and an international treasure for us all”

by Lewis ~ 19 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Białowieża is a forested area that lies on the border of Poland and Belarus.  It includes some 1500 sq km of some of the tallest trees to be found in Europe, including towering hornbeams.  It is a species-rich area, with carnivores such a lynx and wolves, 120 bird species (including the three toed woodpecker and pygmy owl), 60+ mammal species including the bison!  The area has been described as a “national treasure for Poland and an international treasure for us all”.

The tracts of forest are special as they have never been felled, though it would be wrong to think of the woodland as ‘primaeval’  like the original ‘wildwood’. The woodland / forest supports a community through tourism, timber, hunting, honey and mushrooms, not to mention scientific researchers and the staff associated with the National Park.  However, only 105 square km of the forest has been designated as National Park or a Unesco Heritage Site. Read more…

Woodlands and Forests in the Netherlands

Woodlands and Forests in the Netherlands

by Lewis ~ 15 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

(The % of land covered by woodland or forests varies tremendously from country to country – throughout Europe.   The nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden, have large forests and therefore a high % cover, but others such as the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands are amongst the least ‘wooded’.

At present, the % woodland in the Netherlands is about 11%.  In part, this is due to the fact that the Netherlands is Europe’s most densely populated country (with 394 people per square kilometer).  There is a network of small and medium sized cities spread across the country; much of the land is used for agriculture.  However, the State Forestry Commision has developed a (3 billion euro) plan to increase the country’s wooded / forested areas by some 100,000 hectares. Read more…

Trees and flood mitigation

Trees and flood mitigation

by Chris ~ 10 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

With the changing nature of our climate, so extreme events have become more frequent.  The last fifteen or so years has seen significant episodes of flooding.  Flooding used to be a relatively unusual event in the U.K.   In consequence,  efforts are now being directed at finding ways of mitigating the effects of extreme rainfall.

The risk of flooding is associated with changes in our climate (notably rainfall patterns) and the techniques of land management have changed with the mechanisation of agriculture,  the creation of simplified (larger) field systems, land drainage, increased stock densities etc.  The U.K. landscape / countryside has altered significantly over the last fifty years.   Read more…

The national forest revisited

The national forest revisited

by Chris ~ 6 March, 2017 ~ comments welcome

The National Forest scheme has celebrated its 25th anniversary.  It was and is a bold project, focusing on some 500 square kilometers of central England (parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire).  Whilst the area included farmland and some pockets of ancient woodland, e.g. Charnwood Forest to the east and Needwood Forest to the west, it also included many abandoned industrial workings such as opencast mines, quarries, clay pits and spoil heaps.

Some 8.5 million trees have been planted to date and now the area generates income through tourism Read more…

Primroses - heralds of spring

Primroses – heralds of spring

by Lewis ~ 2 March, 2017 ~ one comment

Mediaeval scholars used to refer to the primrose as ‘prima rosa’ or the first rose of the year.  The term ‘first rose’ is a misnomer as the primrose does not belong to the Rose family, but to the Primulaceae – a family that includes some 68 plant genera.  The common primrose is of botanical interest as its flowers occur in two forms – a phenomenon known as heterostyly or dimorphism.

The two forms of the flower are known as pin and thrum eyed forms.  In the thrum eyed flower,  the long stamens are visible (see featured image above) and the short stigma lies below them; whereas in the pin eyed flower the stigma projects above the shorter stamens (see image below). Read more…

Leaves in winter - marcescence

Leaves in winter – marcescence

by Chris ~ 10 February, 2017 ~ one comment

At some point during the months of Autumn,  the leaves have done their job (that of making sugars to be used in growth, the formation of new twigs and branches, forming fruits and seeds).  However, winter is not good for photosynthesis or growth; winds, low temperatures and low light intensities adversely affect a tree’s ability to make sugars. Indeed, if the leaves were retained throughout the winter, they might be regarded as a liability as they would use the the tree’s reserves (that were stored away in the Spring and Summer).  Plus, leaves would offer greater resistance to the wind and the tree would be more likely to suffer damage.  High winds are always more dangerous to a tree when it is in full leaf. Read more…

Red Squirrels Find Sanctuary in my Wood

Red Squirrels Find Sanctuary in my Wood

by Peter Trimming ~ 2 February, 2017 ~ 2 comments

I purchased Snighow Wood, in Wasdale, with the intention of maintaining it as a wildlife habitat; specifically red squirrels. Formerly occupied by red squirrels, greys had moved in some years previously. The timing of my purchase (end of December 2015) was fortunate, as greys had been (largely) removed from the area about a year previously, by the West Lakes Squirrel Initiative. With the choice of three plots of woodland, I chose the one which I thought most suitable for the squirrels, and requiring the least amount of work. There was hazel to be coppiced, rhododendrons to be tackled and paths to be cleared or created! Read more…

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