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Heat waves, vegetation and insect 'refuges'.

Heat waves, vegetation and insect ‘refuges’.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 14 June, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Recent years have seen periods of very hot temperatures, often resulting in forest or moorland fires.  Such extreme weather events have been seen not only in the UK but across the globe (Arizona , Victoria Australia, Indonesia).    Whilst spells of extreme heat (and drought) have been known throughout history,  it would seem that such events have become more common in recent years.   The first years of the 21st century are among the warmest on record  and this warming is associated with increasing levels of greenhouse gases (due to human activity).  

Prolonged heat is not without its effects on us.  The very young and the elderly are most at risk from ‘heat waves’.  The 2003 heatwave across Europe is said to have caused several thousand  'excess' deaths’, mainly of the elderly].  However, heat affects nearly every living organism,  several of the woodlands blogs have written about the effects of drought, one of the effects of prolonged or intense temperatures.  Now research by Wageningen University has looked at some of the effects of rising temperatures on insects.  Concern about the decline of insect populations has resulted in headlines like ‘insect apocalypse or insect armageddon’. Read more...

Greencoats : the genesis of a woodlands novel for children.

Greencoats : the genesis of a woodlands novel for children.

by Kate Innes ~ 9 June, 2021 ~ comments welcome

I grew up in the woods in New England. My parents were South Africans who replanted themselves several times, first in Zimbabwe, then London (where I was born), and finally, and quite accidentally, Connecticut. We didn’t really fit in there, and people often treated us as strange and exotic. 

However, amongst the trees that surrounded our house, there was no judgment or expectation. There was no need to explain myself. The woods offered the joy of exploration, the comfort of sheltering branches, and a sense of having entered into another, quite separate, self-sufficient world. I’d dam tiny streams, spy on wildlife, discover endangered flowers, find out which trees were prone to caterpillar infestation and which had bark that tasted like spearmint that was good to chew. And I always felt that I was amongst friends. I was very lucky. Read more...

June’s Fungi Focus: Pocket Plum (Taphrina pruni)

June’s Fungi Focus: Pocket Plum (Taphrina pruni)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 4 June, 2021 ~ 4 comments

In a month characterised by fruits and flowers, we turn our focus to a fairly commonplace fungi whose own fruitbodies are invisible throughout its life cycle. In fact, you never truly see the fungi itself, just the dramatic effect is has on the fruits of its host. 

Taphrina pruni is more commonly known as the Pocket Plum, or rather, the symptoms of this fungi are called the Pocket Plum. It is a biotrophic fungi, like the rusts mentioned last month, meaning it uses living plants as a source of nutrients, and while it won’t kill its host, its effects are hardly benevolent. Read more...

More on birds from Woodcock Wood : Part 1 Tawny Owls: the earliest of our regulars to nest

More on birds from Woodcock Wood : Part 1 Tawny Owls: the earliest of our regulars to nest

by Chris Saunders ~ 31 May, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Last year Tawny Owls nested successfully in one of two boxes sited close together in the quietest part of our wood. They are traditionalists by habit, and will continue to use the same nesting site year after year unless they are disturbed.   The pair will re-bond during autumn around their nest site, and eggs will be laid early to late March. We were expecting to see them use one of the boxes again this spring, and our trail camera frequently showed them inspecting the box.

We captured the shots below in October, and were confident they would nest there again this year. It’s during these early stages of nesting that Tawny Owls are most sensitive to disturbance, and inevitably the owls were given a lot of competition by the squirrels for their rights to the box.   Also, regrettably, on a couple of occasions we disturbed the female owl which prompted her to leave the box in daylight.  Read more...

“Wild’ Honey bees.

“Wild’ Honey bees.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 28 May, 2021 ~ comments welcome

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is the most common of the various honey bee species world-wide.  Like the other honeybee species, it is described as eusocial.  That is, thousands of sterile female worker bees live in colonies with one fertile queen, and a small number of males (drones).  The western honey bee is often described as a ‘domesticated’ insect. Whilst it is true the honey bees have been ‘managed’ by humans for thousands of years (through the provision of hives), their behaviour is essentiallysimilar to that of  their 'wild cousins’.  Read more...

Woodlands Awards 2021: now in their fifth year

Woodlands Awards 2021: now in their fifth year

by Antony Mason ~ 20 May, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Get your competitive juices flowing and you could win a prize! Or nominate a worthy winner and they could be surprised with a prize – and recognition!

The Woodlands Awards (sponsored by Woodlands.co.uk) are back for the fifth consecutive year, and are open for entries now. Certainly don’t delay too long: the deadline for all entries is 31 July 2021.

There are 14 categories of Awards for 2021 – with a few changes from previous years (see the full list below). Read more...

immature pine cone

Polluting Pines ?

by blogs at woodlands ~ 20 May, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Both carbon dioxide and methane are significant contributors to global warming and climate change. But they are not the only agents of global warming.  Emissions of nitrous oxide N2O (aka laughing gas) are also rapidly increasing, mainly associated with large-scale farming using synthetic fertilisers, and the rearing of livestock.  As a ‘greenhouse gas’, it is extremely potent, much more so on a gramme for gramme basis than carbon dioxide.  It also interacts with the ozone layer, which protects us from the worst aspects of UV radiation.

Now recent findings on nitrous oxide emissions from trees in northern latitudes have surprised scientists.  They have found that the gas is released not only from the soil but from the trees. Read more...

May’s Fungi Focus: Dock Leaf Rust (Puccinia phragmitis)

May’s Fungi Focus: Dock Leaf Rust (Puccinia phragmitis)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 12 May, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Spring is in the air and it feels as if the whole of the outside world has been painted over with a fresh coat of green. A new cycle of living plant matter means a new cycle of fungi that grow on and reproduce from this living plant matter. The few members of the kingdom that are conspicuous around this time of year can feel like an intrusion into this pristine world. I am talking about the rusts, the subject of previous postings on Blackberry Leaf Rust (Phragmidium violaceum) and Bluebell Rust (Uromyces muscari).

The rusts aren’t a particularly loved group, even among mycologists. Gardeners curse at the appearance of Puccinia allii on leeks, onions or garlic, or Puccinia menthae on mint, and as mentioned in my earlier pieces, Puccinia graminis, or Wheat Stem Rust or simply Stem Rust, has caused havoc with cereal crop yields. Read more...

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