Australia has experienced some of the most dramatic effects of climate change - with the unprecedented burning of vast areas of its countryside (see previous blogs). Recently, the weather turned to another extreme - thunderstorms, hailstorms and rain. Large hailstones (the size of golf balls or bigger) have bombarded cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, damaging roofs, cars, trees, and infrastructure. Flash flooding has occurred in some places due to heavy rain, plus there have been high winds and dust storms.
Whilst rain has been welcomed in that it has helped to ‘damp down’ some of the fires that have been raging, the intensity of the rain is not without problems in places. Heavy rainfall can result in further damage to ecosystems. Read more...
What do the seeds of ash, sycamore and maple trees have in common? They all are enclosed in a wing-like structure that helps them disperse - away from the parent plant and indeed each other. Wind dispersal is also known as anemochory. Effective fruit / seed dispersal provides a tree's offspring with the chance to colonise a new area, and reduces competition for resources with their parent and siblings; it also reduces the likelihood of infection with pests and pathogens.
In early Spring this year, both Norway and Sweden reported wild fires in their forests, due in part to a run of dry weather. More recently, fires have been reported in many parts of the world - particularly in the Amazonian Forest, parts of Africa, Siberia, Canada and even within the Arctic Circle.
A few years back, the Russian authorities initiated a policy of allowing remote forest fires to burn - unless the trees / areas were of economic importance. However, the fires this summer affected thousands of square miles of boreal forest and strong winds spread the smoke and ash across the country; it affected cities such as Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk (each home to a million people). Read more...
Some years back, the blog talked about a 5000 year old ‘mummy’ - called Otzi. Otzi was a Neolithic man, and was found frozen, high in the mountains between Austria and Italy. Careful examination of his body, clothing and possessions gives us some insights into his daily life and diet. Otzi and, we presume, his contemporaries made good use of the plants and natural materials around them. Thus,
- His bow was made from Yew
- Ash provided his dagger handle
- Woven grass and bast for his cloak (bast is made from the fibres of the linden tree)
- goats hide for his leggings and jerkin,
- bear skin for his cap
- deer skin for shoes
- arrows from a wayfaring tree and dogwood
Members of the kingdom of the fungi can essentially be divided into the two basic categories of basidiomycetes and ascomycetes. The basidiomycetes form and release their spores on specialised cells called basidia, which can be found on the underside gills of our more familiar mushroom and toadstool-shaped types, or within the pores of boletes and brackets and suchlike.
Ascomycetes, however, produce their spores in the elongated cells known as asci that cover their spore releasing surface. Each individual ascus can contain usually around 8 spores, like snooker balls in a sock, which then get released out of the end when ready: the word is derived from the Greek for wineskin or sac. Typically we might think of cup fungi, such as the various members of the Peziza genus, like the Blistered Cup (Peziza vesiculosa) depicted here, whose favoured substrates of well-rotted manure or compost heaps lends has led to its alternate common name of the Common Dung Cup. Read more...
Having put in place the basic infrastructure so that I can store tools, equipment and firewood and have somewhere for shelter and to work, my attention turned to the top two priorities on my ‘to do’ list – well actually, numbers 2 and 3, number one will always remain ‘relax, do nothing and just enjoy it’.
Firstly there is a semi-circular clearing near the eastern side of what is essentially a triangular plot. I have planted a ‘family copse’ Read more...
We had talked about buying land for about 15 years and had been looking seriously for about 7 years. We had a fairly big wish list, private, quiet and secluded, not too near a road, but with good vehicular access, lots of broadleaf trees and some utility trees, a stream or two would be ideal, a sunny clearing with good night sky views and all within our very humble budget! We looked at lots of woodlands, but nothing ever really ticked all our boxes or felt right, so we just kept looking and wishing.
A new piece of woodland near us came up for sale so one Friday after work we excitedly went to have a look. Read more...
How George Peterken helped to save Britain’s ancient woodlands, and his new book – “Woodland Development”
I met up with George Peterken, the man who has probably done more than any living person to protect Britain's ancient Woodlands. He continues to study woods in fine detail to find out how they actually work and he has written a new book, "Woodland Development" where he explains how a 70-year study of Lady Park Woodland in the Wye Valley has revealed detail on how a broadleaved woodland develops. Young trees that are just slightly larger than others at the beginning tend to stay larger: "within the first decade, probably sooner, those which are destined to become big trees will have already established themselves as the larger saplings - it's like the boat race: getting an early lead means you probably win in the long run." Read more...