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Forest fires in Sweden

Forest fires in Sweden

by Lewis ~ 23 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Sweden has a lot of forest and woodland.   In fact, roughly half of the country is covered by trees.  Travelling back some two thousand years, the trees were mainly broadleaved but then oaks and alders began to decline.  However, by the mid twentieth century Spruces and Pines were dominant.  This was mainly due to the process of forestry management, producing wood for fuel, charcoal [used in iron smelting], potash, tar and timber for building.

However, the recent record breaking temperatures and drought across many parts of Europe have put large areas of Swedish forest at risk.   Rainfall in Sweden this year has been dramatically down - approximately a seventh of the normal amount. One has to look back to the C19th century to find similarly low figures.  Read more...

Fires and climate change

Fires and climate change

by Chris ~ 17 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The recent hot spell has seen a number of fires, not only in the UK but across the world (Arizona , Victoria Australia, Indonesia).  Spells of extreme heat (and drought) have been known throughout history but it would seem that with climate change / global warming extreme events have become more common.   Data show that the years of the 21st century are among the warmest on record - global air temperatures have risen by 1oC since the industrial revolution.

Extreme temperatures have been recorded in many places across the globe.   Ouargla in Algeria soared to 124.3o F (51.3oC), Denver recorded at temperature of 105o F, Montreal recorded 97.9o F, Glasgow hit 89.4o F, Shannon in Ireland reached 89.6o F, Tbilisi (Georgia) soared to 104.9o F and parts of Pakistan are reported to have reached 50oC.   No record by itself can be ascribed to global warming but these and many other records across the globe are consistent with the extremes that can now be expected (more often) in a world that is warming - as atmospheric greenhouse gas levels increase due to human activity (we have entered the anthropocene).

Hot and dry conditions mean that plant material can dry out quickly, so that a thicker layer of pant material / litter is formed - which provides significant fuel for fires.   Studies of some areas suggest that the increased Winter and Spring rainfall (again associated with climate change) encourages plant growth, creating more material for fires (when dry conditions obtain later in the year). Read more...

The easy way to processing 40 cubic of logs

The easy way to processing 40 cubic of logs

by Matt Marples ~ 23 May, 2018 ~ 3 comments

When I first moved to Sweden, friends from the UK sent me countless books and magazine articles on the culture and tradition of the log stack. How I would become fanatical about length, order and symmetry of my log shed and how by the end of spring I would be  fitter than at any time of the year. Each year the first job of spring time as winter crawls back is to sort out your log store for the following winter. Living in the Northern part of Sweden, winter is a big thing.  Logs are like currency and timing seems to be everything.

You need to cut your timber, and as silver birch makes the best logs for us, its in the depths of winter when the tree isn’t drawing water. Read more...

In praise of Pines.

In praise of Pines.

by Chris ~ 11 May, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Pine trees are found across the world, there are over one hundred different species.  Many are native to the coniferous forests  (Taiga) of the Northern Hemisphere.  Their evergreen needles (leaves) offer shade in summer, and the trees may offer a degree of shelter from the winds of autumn and winter.  Gardeners and foresters 'like' Pines as they generally tolerate nutrient poor and somewhat dry soils.   In the period after WW2,  considerable areas of ‘low grade’ land were pressed into service (in the U.K.).   Areas around Thetford and Kielder were used, as were some sandy coastal sites (for example,  Holkham in Norfolk) and many large tracts of land in Scotland.  Pines are central to the business of agroforestry in places like the U.K,  New Zealand and Brazil, providing a source of lumber.    Read more...

Solid fuels and wood burning stoves,

Solid fuels and wood burning stoves,

by Lewis ~ 30 April, 2018 ~ 3 comments

During the last decade, a market has developed for wood burning stoves. and sales have soared to 200,000 a year.   Wood burning stoves are marketed as ‘eco friendly’, ‘low emission’ and as offering ‘savings on fuel costs’.   Indeed, not only has the woodlands blog written about the pros and cons of different woods in stoves, but Angus has written enthusiastically about the installation of his wood burning stove (it keeps the house warm and reduces carbon emissions).

However, some are beginning to question the wisdom of installing wood stoves.    The market for wood fuel has grown in parallel with the installation of these stoves.   To meet the demand for wood fuel, even some areas of natural woodland have been felled.    For example, mature oaks from Ryton Wood near Coventry were felled to provide fuel for log burning.   Indeed, more wood from British woodland is being burnt now than at any time since the industrial revolution.     Read more...

Lignum Vitae - A wood so unique it was used in the first nuclear-powered submarines

Lignum Vitae – A wood so unique it was used in the first nuclear-powered submarines

by Oliver ~ 20 April, 2018 ~ one comment

Lignum Vitae, Latin for the ‘tree of life’, has a set of properties that cause a newfound awe in natural materials. Also known as Ironwood, it is the hardest and heaviest traded wood, being 3 to 4 times the hardness of English Oak. It was the alleged medicinal properties of Lignum Vitae which have earned it the title ‘tree of life’.  Sometimes brewed into a tea or as a herbal medicine; historically - it was used to treat symptoms of gout, arthritis and syphilis. Its properties / uses are still being explored. Read more...

UK government's 25 year plan - what does it mean for our trees and seas?

UK government’s 25 year plan – what does it mean for our trees and seas?

by Angus ~ 15 April, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Early in 2018 the government launched its 25 year environment plan which covers everything green that they could think of from water to waste, and from chemicals to climate change.  It's full of the usual good intentions mostly for far off dates when current politicians will either be drawing comfy pensions or themselves will have become integrated into the environment.  But it does have some specific plans for our woodlands and our oceans.

For forestry in England there is a specific tree-planting target which the Woodland Trust have been actively lobbying over many years - the plan aims to increase tree cover by 180,000 hectares before the end of 2042.  Read more...

Plants and pollutants

Plants and pollutants

by Lewis ~ 6 April, 2018 ~ comments welcome

There are plants that we like, and some that we don’t.  In the latter category, there are weeds - the plants that grow in the ‘wrong places’.  The plants that we like include those that we eat (crops), those that we grow for timber, for pharmaceuticals or for aesthetics / pleasure.  However, we now can add other uses for certain plants - namely phytoremediation and phytomining.

Phytoremediation involves the use of plants to ‘extract’ heavy metals from contaminated land.  Land can become contaminated with potentially harmful metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, copper) due to mining activities.  Read more...

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