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National Tree Week, 2016

by Lewis ~ 19 November, 2016 ~ comments welcome

National Tree Week is approaching;  it is organised by The Tree Council.  This year, it runs from the 26th November to the 4th December.  This year’s poster for the week is the headline image (opposite) *. The main aim of the week is to encourage the planting of trees.  Tree planting is important as many of our trees are now under threat, for example, bleeding canker and the leaf miner moth can attack Horse Chestnut, whilst the Ash is succumbing to Ash Dieback (Chalara). Read more…

Unusual or exotic trees -Ginkgo  biloba

Unusual or exotic trees -Ginkgo biloba

by Chris ~ 18 August, 2016 ~ 2 comments

The maidenhair tree is otherwise known as Ginkgo biloba, or just Gingko is native to China, but is widely cultivated through the world.  The name Ginkgo may be derived from a misspelling of the Japanese Gin kyo or silver apricot – referring to form of its fruit.   The biloba part of the name refers the two lobed form of the tree’s leaves.   Ginkgo is a dioecious species, that is to say, there are separate male and female trees.   The female tree produces quite large seeds within a yellow brown soft fruit like structure.  Though attractive in appearance, it has a a rancid smell. Read more…

honey bee on lavender

Pollution, bees and foraging.

by Lewis ~ 27 July, 2016 ~ 2 comments

Sadly, our air is polluted with many different chemicals from anthropogenic sources – particularly the burning of fuels.  Many of these chemicals have been implicated as exacerbating a number of health conditions – notably heart disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), stroke and lung cancer.  Common pollutants are particulates (from diesel), ozone and nitrogen oxides.  These pollutants not only affect us but also many different plants and animals.

Recent research at Penn State University has revealed that ozone interacts with plant scents (volatile oils) and degrades them.  As a result the scents are less effective in attracting pollinators (bees and bumblebees) to the flowers. Read more…

Have we moved into 'the human epoch' ?

Have we moved into ‘the human epoch’ ?

by Lewis ~ 1 May, 2016 ~ 4 comments

As a species, we humans have only been present on the Earth for a ‘blink of the eye’ in geological terms.   The Earth is approximately some 4.6 billion years old. Geologists have divided up these years into a number of geological periods or epochs – from the Pre-cambrian (from the formation of the earth until about 540 million years ago) to the most recent – the Holocene, which started at the end of the last Ice Age – about 12,000 years ago.

Modern Humans emerged out of Africa probably some 200,000 years ago, and since that time they have increased massively in number.   At the end of the C18th , there were probably about one billion people; now there are over seven billion.

We have changed the Earth in many ways.   Read more…

Nitrates, land use and fresh water systems.

Nitrates, land use and fresh water systems.

by Chris ~ 28 February, 2014 ~ 2 comments

Nitrogen is an important plant nutrient.  Generally, it is taken up in the form of nitrate (NO3) and it is used in the formation of amino acids, proteins and the constituents of the genetic material (DNA).  Some plants fix atmospheric nitrogen through the use of symbiotic bacteria in root nodules. However, modern / intensive farming involves the addition of nitrogen compounds in the form of manure, sewage sludge and chemical fertilisers.

Couple this with the aerial deposition of nitrogen compounds, estimated at 400,000 tonnes / yr from car exhausts etc. (in the form of ammonia, nitrogen oxides) to give the total burden of nitrogen pollution. Pollution from such widespread sources is referred to as diffuse contamination. Read more…

Winter weather, and its effects

Winter weather, and its effects

by Chris ~ 20 February, 2014 ~ 5 comments

In 2010, the blog reported on the exceptional winter weather.  Back then, we had just ‘emerged’ from one of the coldest winters on record. Currently, we are experiencing one of the wettest winters ever.

In December, the East Coast faced storms and a tidal surge (affecting communities from Scotland down to Essex), and then Christmas Eve saw high winds and the cancellation of flights from Gatwick.   January brought some 175 mm of rain in the South East.  The closest comparable January was that of 1948.  A summary of the winter so far can be found at the Met Office web site – here Read more…

To dredge or not to dredge?   Woodland ponds

To dredge or not to dredge? Woodland ponds

by Angus ~ 24 January, 2013 ~ 4 comments

In deciding how much you should be dredging your pond or ponds you may want to do a sort of “loss vs benefit analysis” – ponds which are soak-aways from heavily-fertilised agricultural areas are likely to be poor in wildlife and by dredging you may be able to remove polluted sediments and hopefully create silt traps and ways to buffer the pond from future pollution.  It may be that your pond is in a marshy area and you may be better off digging small shallow pools rather than undertaking big excavations.  Often it is easier  and cheaper to create a new pond than to dredge an existing one.  Digging new ponds can be much more useful to wildlife than planting trees – trees will self-seed if land is left alone whereas ponds are much less likely to create themselves.  Indeed, very often the most useful way of improving a pond for wildlife is to reduce (or remove) overhanging trees which keep out light and can degrade the pond with heavy leaf-fall. Read more…

The million ponds project.

The million ponds project.

by Lewis ~ 29 November, 2012 ~ 2 comments

Over the last fifty or so years, many of our freshwater ecosystems (rivers, streams and ponds) have been polluted – particularly with nitrates and phosphates.  This pollution has lead to eutrophication : an overgrowth of simple green algae and subsequent loss of biodiversity.  The million ponds project seeks to create new ponds, with clean, unpolluted water.

The question might be posed “why not clean up and manage existing ones?”  Of course where this can be done, then it should be done but new ponds allow one to start with a clean slate.  They can be created in places where their water supply will be clean throughout the pond’s lifetime, and generally creation is cheaper and simpler than the restoration of an existing pond. Read more…

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