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Greenwash - are the public being bamboozled?

Greenwash – are the public being bamboozled?

by Angus ~ 26 February, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Greenwashing is when a company spends more effort on saying how environmentally friendly they are rather than actually reducing the environmental damage they do.  Examples could include the recent claims made by Easyjet that they are already carbon neutral or the target by BP to become carbon neutral by 2050.  The Easyjet claim smells a bit like like fake news but at least they have pledged to spend £25 million over the next year on offsetting their carbon emissions - it's hard to see how even that can compensate for their 331 planes flying around the world 24/7.  BP's claim is easier to make because it's only a target for the year 2050 - "it's easy to write a cheque if you know it won't be cashed for 30 years" and, in any case, it's rather unlikely that the current board will be in place in 30 years' time.  So, putting aside these particular claims, why do big companies engage in such extravagant claims, and are they really just greenwash? Read more...

Unusual or exotic trees : Mesquite.

Unusual or exotic trees : Mesquite.

by Lewis ~ 24 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Mesquite is the name given to a number of leguminous shrubs or trees that belong to the genus Prosopis. Many of these plants are native to southern parts of the United  States and Mexico, though one species is native to South America - Argentina. Generally, they are plants of very dry (arid or xeric) regions.  They have the capacity to form very long, deep roots that seek water deep underground.

The trees / shrubs are deciduous and their leaves are pinnate (a compound form of leaf); they are also thorny.  The trees produce flowers through Spring and Summer, and the seeds (beans) form in pods.  The trees can be used as a source of timber (for furniture, and in the past ship building). 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...

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...

Forests and woodlands in flux

Forests and woodlands in flux

by Chris ~ 28 August, 2019 ~ one comment

Twelve thousand years ago (during the late glacial maximum) massive ice sheets and glaciers extended across much of the world. Then, the climate began to warm and about ten thousand years ago, our landscape started to look very different from today - not just because there were no roads, towns or cities but because the newly exposed land was being colonised by plants, trees, animals – and lastly by people. 

The forests and woodlands that slowly developed in the post Ice Age period were different to the forests and woodlands that we see today. The land was colonised (at this time) by the plants and animals that lived on ‘the edge of the ice’. Read more...

amazon associate

Is Amazon’s packaging gobbling up our forests?

by Angus ~ 27 July, 2019 ~ one comment

Here at woodlands.co.uk, we’re not just interested in how our woodlands are protected and cared for. We also like to know how trees are being used for things like packaging - it occurred to us as yet another order from Amazon arrived with ample brown paper and plenty of space in the box, that the demand on trees from a company the size of Amazon would be very high indeed.  So we went to Amazon to ask some questions and we learned a lot more whilst visiting one of Amazon's 200 giant warehouses.  The one we visited on an industrial estate in Peterborough is big enough to cover 8 football pitches with a million square feet of space. Read more...

Changing phenologies and climate change

Changing phenologies and climate change

by Chris ~ 16 July, 2019 ~ one comment

Phenology is about the observation of natural events, recording when things happen, for example, when horse chestnut and ash trees come into leaf, or when the first swifts or bumblebees are seen. These timings vary from year to year. Through the recording of natural events over many years, one can look for trends and see if they are correlated with changes in the weather or other phenomena.

Recent studies by researchers at Rothampstead, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the British Trust for Ornithology suggest that a number of different phenologies are changing.   They looked at various insect and bird populations in a variety of different habitats (urban gardens, agricultural systems, sand dunes, grassland, woodlands etc).  The broad conclusion was there was a trend towards earlier phenologies for UK bird, moth and butterfly species across habitat types” . For example, aphids (which breed rapidly and can adapt to changing temperature quite quickly) now take flight some 30 days earlier in the year than fifty years ago.   Such phenological changes have ‘knock on’ effects.  For example, the earlier arrival of aphids can affect potato crops.  Aphids spread plant viruses and young potato plants are more susceptible to viral disease than older, more mature plants. Read more...

Planting trees – millions of them - part 2

Planting trees – millions of them – part 2

by Chris ~ 3 July, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Woodlands and forests can help to slow global warming and associated climate change (which results in extreme heat, drought, floods and famine /poverty).  Trees release water through transpiration into the atmosphere and ‘encourage’ rainfall.  Trees also help to reduce air pollution, they provide habitats for wildlife and economic benefits in terms of employment for local people. 

Governments across the globe are finally realising the potential of “natural solutions to climate change, namely reforestation and ecological restoration of habitats – both  of which allow for carbon sequestration - ‘locking up carbon into organic form’. It has been estimated that such natural solutions could go a long way towards stabilising global heating below the critical 2oC threshold Read more...

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