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Restoring and rewilding initiatives.

Restoring and rewilding initiatives.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 26 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

At the end of the last Ice Age, the British Isles were recolonised; plant and animal species from the continent moved across the 'land bridge’ (doggerland) that connected us to Europe.  Trees, shrubs and plants began to move into the areas ‘released’ from the ice sheets, forests formed in many places.  At first, the forests were largely coniferous and they extended across the north of the UK to swathes of Europe and Asia: they formed an enormous area of boreal coniferous forest.  This vast array of trees provided shelter and food for a variety of animals -  wolves, lynx, elk and many other species. 

Since the Ice Age,  forests and woodlands have been cut down for farming; trees felled for timber, sheep and deer ate young shoots and stopped native trees (like the Scots pine) from re-growing. Read more...

Greenhouse Gases, Goats Willow and sheep.

Greenhouse Gases, Goats Willow and sheep.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 19 February, 2021 ~ 2 comments

Recent times have seen a recognition that livestock farming contributes to global warming.  Ruminants such as cows, sheep and goats produce methane as a by-product of their digestion, not only that but their urine can release nitrous oxide - another potent greenhouse gas.  It has been suggested that farming might account for some 10% of UK emissions.

However, some new research (published this January) conducted by Professor Chris Stoate (of The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) suggests that there might be a way of mitigating these emissions by changing the diet of certain ruminants slightly. Read more...

Woodland and hedgerow plants : the foxglove

Woodland and hedgerow plants : the foxglove

by blogs at woodlands ~ 15 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Whilst Foxgloves are familiar as plants found in cottage gardens, they are also widespread in woodlands and hedgerows. They may be particularly obvious in woodland clearings or areas where coppicing or felling has taken place as they can readily colonise disturbed ground.  If flowering, the foxglove is recognisable by its tall ‘spike’ of pink to purple flowers. The plants are biennial, existing as a rosette of leaves in the first year and then producing the flowering shoot in the second.  The leaves are rather soft to the touch, and downy due many small hairs on their surfaces (see images below).

Foxgloves are favoured by bumblebees which ‘disappear’ into their tubular flowers in search of nectar.  The flowers, which hang downwards, have a wide ‘mouth’ [often with hairs] and provide a ‘landing stage’ for visiting insects. Read more...

February’s Fungi Focus: Antrodia carbonica

February’s Fungi Focus: Antrodia carbonica

by Jasper Sharp ~ 9 February, 2021 ~ one comment

There is an aspect to going out on a fungi foray, and indeed looking at all parts of the natural world (I’m sure insect hunters will tell you the same), that makes one think of ‘Pokémon Go’.  You head out into the woods, not knowing what you’ll find, but with the awareness that some of your discoveries definitively trump others in terms of their impressiveness and rarity. Of course, not everything that is rare is particularly impressive to look at, but that doesn’t dampen the excitement when you realise you have found something that has been very seldom recorded and which you might have been the only person ever to notice in your area.  Many crust fungi can be considered rare precisely because they are so rarely recorded. Part of the reason they are so rarely recorded is because they are so rarely identified, and part of the reason they are so rarely identified is because, on the surface, many appear as relatively nondescript compared with more flamboyant members of their kingdom. You have to look long and carefully, often through a microscope, to work out what they are.  Read more...

Can woodlands and forests ‘overcome’ drought?

Can woodlands and forests ‘overcome’ drought?

by blogs at woodlands ~ 5 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

One particular concern of continued climate change and global warming is drought.  Not only will drought affect people but also plants. Droughts can inhibit the growth of trees, or kill them.  Over time, they can change the species make up of woodlands and forests.   If woodlands and forests experience drought then this will seriously impact their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - they act as carbon sinks and help mitigate climate change.

Recently Tom Ovenden et al from Stirling University and Forest research at Roslin have focused on the effects of climate on Scots Pine.  Scots Pine is a widely distributed tree across Europe and often planted for its timber.  It is a ‘favourite’ with red squirrels.  The research team examined the trees in a pine forest that was planted (near Inverness) back in 1935.  They examined tree rings from trees from high and low density stands.  A ring forms each year and the width of the ring is a measure of the growth the tree has achieved in a particular year.  Wide rings indicating substantial growth.  The width of the rings was then correlated with climate records.  The rings formed in ‘drought years’ was compared to growth in average (non drought) years, and to the rings formed in ‘post drought’ years. Read more...

The BSBI New Year Plant Hunt.

The BSBI New Year Plant Hunt.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 3 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

For some ten years now , the BSBI has organised the New Year Plant Hunt.  Each ‘hunt’ has involved people looking to see which plants are in flower during the first few days of the New Year.  The volunteers ‘hunt’ for wild flowers in their area for about three hours; and send the results to the BSBI. By doing this, the volunteers are helping build a clearer picture of how our wildflowers are responding to changes in our autumn and winter weather patterns. Read more...

field margin

Bumblebee bottlenecks!

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

A major factor controlling the population of pollinators (bees, bumblebees and hover flies) is the availability of nectar bearing flowers.  When and where nectar-bearing flowers are to be found is important.   A recent study  (Timberlake et al at Bristol Uni) looked at the availability of nectar and pollen supply and the colony density of buff tailed bumblebee [Bombus terrestris] colonies - by studying the different resources available on twelve farms in South West England.

The study found :

  • The nectar supply in early autumn (September) was strongly correlated with colony density in the following Spring.
  • The number of gardens in the area available to the bumblebees was also associated with colony success in the Spring.
  • It was thought that improving the ‘quality’ of the semi-natural habitats would improve the availability of late summer / early autumn nectar supply.  

Read more...

January’s Fungi Focus: Crimped Gills

January’s Fungi Focus: Crimped Gills

by Jasper Sharp ~ 20 January, 2021 ~ comments welcome

They grow in dense overlapping tiers on dead stumps and branches, the felty topside of these semi-circular shelves primarily an orange to tawny brown colour demarcated to form zones of different colours, including a rather striking blue in places, and tending towards white at the edges. The Crimped Gill, or Plicatura crispa (also Plicaturopsis crispa), does indeed from such descriptions, sound remarkably similar to the Turkey Tails described in last month’s post.

In these winter months when bracket fungi are plentiful in our woodlands, there are a good number of fungi that might be confused with Turkey Tails, in fact, from the False Turkey Tails and Hairy Curtain Crusts described last month, through the Tripe Fungus covered in a Fungi Focus from last February and other lookalike species such as the Smokey Bracket (Bjerkandera adusta).  Read more...

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