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a problem with methane

a problem with methane

by Chris ~ 11 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Radiant energy from the sun falls on the Earth; some of this energy is absorbed by the planet and its atmosphere.  Some of the energy is radiated back into space.  The balance between the absorbed and radiated energy determines global temperature.  This balance is changed by a number of factors - the intensity of the solar energy, cloud reflectivity, the absorption of energy by various gases or surfaces.

The reflectivity of the Earth’s surface  (the albedo) influences the amount of light energy that is reflected back into space. Snow has a high albedo, that is, it reflects much of the light back out into space.  Dark objects (like conifer plantations) reflect less light / radiation and absorb more thereby trapping heat that would otherwise be reflected back into space. The amount of energy that is ‘retained’ is also influenced by the presence of particular gases in the atmosphere - the so-called 'greenhouse gases', notably carbon dioxide and methane.  The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased dramatically from 280 ppm during the 10,000 years up to the mid-18th century to 415 ppm (as of 2019).  This increase has certainly contributed to the changes in climate that we have witnessed in recent years - extreme weather events such as heat waves and flooding.   Read more...

October’s Fungi Focus: Ochre brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca)

October’s Fungi Focus: Ochre brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 4 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

It should be pretty easy, one would think, to recognise the various species within the Russula genus, or brittlegills, the bright-coloured little mushrooms that have been popping up vigorously across the country over the past few months. Their vibrant cap colours render them immediately conspicuous among the Autumn leaf litter surrounding the bases of the trees with which they form mycorrhizal relationships. while their shared features make them relatively easy to situate within this wide grouping. All are particularly prone to crumbling and breaking under rough handling and all have white or slightly off-white stems, gills and flesh, often exposed beneath the holes left in their vivid cap cuticles by snacking woodland creatures. Read more...

Surrey Hills Wood Fair this weekend (Sat 5th and Sun 6th October 2019)

Surrey Hills Wood Fair this weekend (Sat 5th and Sun 6th October 2019)

by Angus ~ 1 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

This weekend all woodland lovers within reach should try to make time to visit Fish Pond Copse in the Cranleigh Showground (GU6 7DW) for what will be one of the year's best woodland events.  It's from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.  Despite possible rain (bring boots!) these events are a great way to meet fellow enthusiasts and learn more about British woodlands.  My colleague who came with me to the Wilderness Gathering a couple of months ago said, "We were drenched but it brought out the survivalist in me and I made some great contacts."

There will be tree climbing, archery, fire-making and chainsaw demos.  For foodies like me,  there is apple pressing, outdoor cookery and a range of food tents.  The full programme can be accessed here : https://www.surreyhills.org/events/the-2019-surrey-hills-wood-fair/  Read more...

Protecting our trees and woodlands.

Protecting our trees and woodlands.

by Chris ~ 27 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Globalisation is the process by which economies and cultures are drawn together; they become more inter-connected through the flow of trade, capital, people and technology.  This has occurred in part due to the rapid growth of air travel, container shipping etc. so that there are now massive movements of people and goods (both raw and manufactured).   One positive aspect of globalisation is that we have access to foods and materials from all over the world.  A downside is that disease, parasites and pests can ‘hitch a ride’ with people or materials and goods as they move across the world.   Plants and animals can also change their geographical range / distribution as a result of climate change.  The woodlands blog has outlined some of the problems associated with various ‘alien or invasivespecies, for example,

Asian hornets, Read more...

Introducing woodlandsTV videos on LICHENS

Introducing woodlandsTV videos on LICHENS

by Chris ~ 24 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In winter, woods can seem a bit ‘naked’ and empty. Trees and shrubs have entered into a dormant state in order to survive the rigours of the winter months. Their buds await the signals that herald Spring. Many birds will have migrated to warmer climes, some animals will be hibernating. Many insects will be spending the winter as eggs or pupae, whilst herbaceous plants will over-winter as seeds, corms or bulbs. 

But on the bark of many trees and on the surfaces of fences and walls, there will be lichens they are there in summer, winter, spring and autumn.  Lichens are rather unusual in that they are an amalgam of two (or occasionally three) organisms : a fungus and algae. They are symbiotic systems, where two partners work together for mutual benefit (occasionally there are more than two partners). The fungus makes up the bulk of the lichen’s structure (known as the thallus), but the algae (green algae or cyanobacteria) are essential as they can photosynthesise and provide the organism with carbohydrates.  The nature of the biochemistry and physiology of the lichen symbiosis is largely due to the pioneering work of Dr David Smith at the University of Oxford in the 1960's and 70's. Read more...

Annual rings, dendrochronology and climate change.

Annual rings, dendrochronology and climate change.

by Chris ~ 24 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Dendrochronology seeks to gather information from the annual rings of trees, dated to their year of formation.   As trees age, they form new distinctive rings, outward from the centre, and each year a circle of new, dead wood is formed (by the cambium) around the trunk of most trees. The annual rings form because the water conducting xylem vessels or early wood formed in late spring and early summer (when growth is rapid) are wider and lighter than those formed in late summer and early autumn, which are narrower and darker (sometimes called the late wood).  A light and dark ring together constitute one year’s growth.   In winter, there is no growth.

Trees and their annual rings are essentially long term recording devices that ‘house’ information about climatic variations, past climates and ecosystems; they can even offer insights into historical events. From an annual ring, it is possible to extract information about precipitation, temperature and other climate data about that year. Read more...

Tree planting - is it always a good thing?

Tree planting – is it always a good thing?

by Lewis ~ 19 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

A number of initiatives both national and inter-national have focused on the possibility of large scale tree planting as a means of reducing the effects of climate change and keeping global warming below the critical 2oC threshold.  Indeed, some researchers have estimated that restoring and creating forests could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by 25%, ‘sucking out’ some (extra) 200 gigatonnes of CO2 and locking it away in wood.  

However, there are problems with this approach.

    • Some estimates suggest that human activities have added a massive 600 gigatonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere over the millennia
    • Restoring or establishing forests is not a ‘simple matter’ of planting some trees (albeit millions of them); there are technical and financial challenges (see * below, for exmple).

Read more...

painted lady butterfly

The big butterfly count : a painted lady year.

by Chris ~ 16 September, 2019 ~ one comment

The results of the Big Butterfly Count are in and have been analysed;  one of the most interesting observations is that the migratory butterfly - the painted lady - was here this summer in amazing numbers.  There were 30 times as many here this summer as compared to 2018; indeed nearly half a million were recorded across the U.K.   The last time such numbers were seen in the UK was some ten years ago - in 2009, and before that in 2003 and 1996.. 

Each year, successive generations of Painted Ladies move northwards from Africa to breed in central and northern Europe during the summer. Read more...

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