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Climate change, forest fragmentation, fire and disease

Climate change, forest fragmentation, fire and disease

by Chris ~ 17 January, 2020 ~ one comment

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...

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...

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...

coniferous forest

German forest dieback : waldsterben 2

by Lewis ~ 6 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In recent times, new or different threats have emerged to upset the balance of woodland and forest ecosystems.   In the 1960’s and early 70’s concern focussed on the effects of air pollution, particularly the effects of acid rain.  This type of pollution was characterised by the deposition / assimilation of sulphur dioxide and its derivatives (sulphuric & sulphurous acid), plus various nitrogen oxides.  This air pollution was largely due to industry and traffic.

Some of the most striking effects of ‘acid rain’ pollution were seen in the coniferous forests of Germany - where it was termed : Waldsterben [Wald=forest plus sterben=to die].  Read more...

Fires, Seeds and Serotiny

Fires, Seeds and Serotiny

by Chris ~ 29 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Seeds are dispersed from a parent plant by a variety of means.  Some plants use wind dispersal (sycamore, dandelion), some use animals (burdock, herb bennet), some even use water (willow, silver birch, coconut and the famous coco de mer).  But in some parts of the world, such as South Africa and Australia, fire is a feature of certain ecosystems and the fire and/or smoke can be the stimulus for seed dispersal and germination.   Read more...

Biodiversity and farming

Biodiversity and farming

by Lewis ~ 22 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

We are dependent on ecosystem services . At the most basic of levels, early humans benefitted from the ‘products of nature”; that is fruits and seeds to eat, animals to hunt.   Ecosystems, like woodlands, provided shelter from some of the harsher aspects of climate and weather.  Now we can add in ‘services’ such as the provision of medicines, waste removal, nutrient recycling and recreational experiences. Read more...

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