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Climate change, forest fragmentation, fire and disease

Climate change, forest fragmentation, fire and disease

by Chris ~ 17 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

The Earth is warming as a result of the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, leading to a period of rapid and significant climate change, which is seen as an existential threat to humanity by many. It is possible that the tipping point has been reached, where the effects of global warming, such as the loss of polar ice sheets, are unstoppable.  The most dire ‘predictions’ think that cities, industries, countries, and perhaps our species will be lost.

Climate change is not new and variations in the patterns of weather have provoked the collapse of regimes and cultures throughout recorded history. Social and economic constructs have unravelled and  populations have declined. Read more...

RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch : 2020

RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch : 2020

by Chris ~ 14 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

This year the weekend of 25th - 27th January, sees the return of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. If you would like to take part, you need to put aside an hour at any time over the three days and count the birds visiting your garden or a local park.  

If you go to the  www.rspb.org.uk website, you can ‘sign up’ which will unlock exclusive Birdwatch Extra features. Read more...

Climate change - adapt or die ?

Climate change – adapt or die ?

by Lewis ~ 11 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Summer 2018 saw my garden filled with colour, the sunflowers grew tall, the sweet peas colourful and scented and my ‘exotic’ red castor oil plants were almost tropical in appearance.  However, this last summer was very disappointing - many things failed to thrive or were dwarfed - not doubt in response to periods of wet and cold in the earlier months of the year.  Whilst, it is very clear that plants and animals respond to their environment and the weather that they experience, it is not clear how they respond to the long term effects of climate change.  As yet, we do not have many answers to this.  We need to understand how both plants and animals can 

(1). respond or indeed adapt to changes in climate - i.e new conditions.  For example, can they change in terms of size or shape         or  Read more...

20 20 vision for 2020 - is even 20% tree cover enough?

20 20 vision for 2020 – is even 20% tree cover enough?

by Angus ~ 6 January, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Campaigners say that we need to increase tree cover to 50% and claim it will help deal with climate change. Tree planting became a big issue in the recent general election but it's much harder than people think and probably less effective at combatting climate change than other simpler measures.   For a start it's a slow business - even in the 1960s tree-planting splurge it took a decade of feverish activity to increase tree cover by just a few percentage points.  Also you need to think carefully about where you plant and what trees you plant - the 1960's planting was mostly on uplands and with mono-cultures that were bad for biodiversity (mainly spruce and pine).  More fundamentally we need to ask what this tree-planting is trying to achieve: can the carbon fixed through one crop of trees realistically counter the burning of carbon from millions of generations of trees represented by burning coal and oil? Read more...

another abandoned Christmas Tree

The fate of Christmas trees

by Angus ~ 3 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

There is considerable debate as to the virtues or otherwise of buying a real Christmas tree over an artificial one.  This comes into focus somewhat more sharply in the post-Christmas period.  

A  6 to 7 foot high natural tree (bought with no roots) would be between ten to fifteen years old and it has a fairly low carbon footprint.   As it has been growing, it has been absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away in the form of cellulose and lignin, whilst releasing oxygen.  However, this footprint changes dramatically if its fate is to be consigned to land fill.   As it decomposes, it will produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas and the carbon footprint of the tree will increase quite dramatically.   If, however, the tree is carefully composted, then its environmental impact can remain relatively low (visit the Carbon Trust for detail).  

The cultivation and growth of natural Christmas trees provides a wildlife habitat, and the trees help stabilise and protect soil.  But in some parts of the world, notably Canada and the USA, the growth and supply of Christmas trees has been affected by heatwaves (as in Oregon in 2017 / 2018 - which killed many very young trees), insect damage and wildfires. The effects of climate change are particularly marked in Canada.  It may be that climate change will intensify the effect of these factors, and that Christmas tree ‘farms’ may need to move to higher elevations - where it is cooler and insect pests (e.g. balsam twig aphid) are less of a problem.  Read more...

January’s Fungi Focus: Witches’ Butter, Warlock’s Butter and Yellow Brain

January’s Fungi Focus: Witches’ Butter, Warlock’s Butter and Yellow Brain

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

There are some who argue that the prime fungi hunting season basically comes to an end with the first frosts around November time. There is still plenty to see on those wintry woodland walks around the turn of the year however. In these mid to late winter months, the more conventional cap-and-stem types might be thinner on the ground, but if you care to cast your eyes around to more woody substrates, you should be sure to find a variety of crusts, brackets, tiny ascomycetes and, the subject of this month’s fungi focus, jellies.  Examples of fungi that form soft and gelatinous fruitbodies include the blobby types like Orange Jelly Spot (Dacrymyces stillatus) and Crystal Brain (Exidia nucleata) to more complex and distinctive fruiting forms like the branching Yellow Stagshorn (Calocera viscosa) and the subject of a former post, the Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae).  Read more...

Climate change changes phenologies.

Climate change changes phenologies.

by Chris ~ 26 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Phenology is about observing natural events and recording when things happen.   For example, when ash or horse chestnut trees come into leaf, when the first swifts are sighted or bumblebees emerge from their nests. These timings vary from year to year. By recording such events over many years, it is possible to look for trends and see if they are associated with changes in the weather or other phenomena.

Climate change has resulted in significant changes in summer and winter temperatures, and rainfall patterns.    For example,  April, May and June of 2018 were all very warm, each being at least 1.9°C above average [that is the 30 year average for 1961–90]; June was the third warmest June for the UK since 1910. Read more...

Seasonal Fruits for Christmas

Seasonal Fruits for Christmas

by Chris ~ 13 December, 2019 ~ one comment

Winter, and Christmas in particular, is linked with foods and flavours that perhaps we do not experience at other times of the year.  Think of the distinctive smell and taste of the Christmas Pudding with its many ingredients, the cranberry sauce with the turkey, mince pies (with their mixed fruits) and perhaps exotic crystallised figs; all examples of seasonal fare.   The ingredients for some of these may be raised in your garden or come from much further afield.  

If we look back in time, then our ancestors would have gathered, stored, and preserved a wide range of foraged fruits and ‘seeds’ to ‘see them through’ the harsher winter months.  They had techniques and recipes for preserving fruits / roots etc. through the winter when fridges and freezing had not been thought of; except for the ice houses on the estates of the landed gentry. In relatively recent times, there has been renewed interest in foraged food such as chestnuts, sloes etc - see Richard Mabey’s book “ Food for Free."  Read more...

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