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Springtime at Beauchamp Woods

Springtime at Beauchamp Woods

by Alice ~ 29 June, 2020 ~ 3 comments

My parents and I have recently purchased a piece of woodland of about 3 acres, in Devon, called Beauchamp woods. It is a mixture of semi-natural ancient woodland, larch plantation and a clear-felled area. This is the perfect mixture for us. We wanted to give something back to nature by preserving a small piece of habitat for wildlife, whilst enjoying spending time in our woods. We are loving it and find it very rewarding.

I have some knowledge of woodland management and conservation through my education and work and it is great to have the opportunity to put this into practice. My main aim is to maximise biodiversity, I want it to be the best habitat for as many species as possible. Read more...

UK wildlife, gaining ground but losing numbers ?

UK wildlife, gaining ground but losing numbers ?

by Chris ~ 22 May, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Nearly every report that one comes across says that many plant and animal species are under threat.   The causes are many but may be broadly summarised as 

  • Fragmentation, loss or destruction of natural habitats (as a result of intensive and extending agriculture, roadways, railways etc)
  • Pesticides and pollution (e.g. neonicotinoids, eutrophication as a result of fertiliser use)
  • Impacts of climate change

Some of the changes are more obvious in every day terms than others, for example, the drop in insect numbers is revealed by the car windscreen ‘test’ : the splatometer.   A survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural parts of Denmark [using data collected between 1997 to 2017] found a decline of some  80%. There was a similar decline in the number of swallows and martins, (they depend on insects for their food). Read more...

The lasting effect of Rhododendron ponticum in woodlands.

The lasting effect of Rhododendron ponticum in woodlands.

by Chris ~ 20 March, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Atlantic oak woodland is often referred to as the Celtic Rainforest.  It is characterised by lichen covered trees, together with a rich moss and liverwort flora.  The environment is damp and humid, with streams and waterfalls contributing to this. These woodlands have evolved under the influence of the Gulf Stream,  which helps keeps the area warm (and wet).

The difficult access and rugged terrain (in some areas) has helped to preserve these woodlands, plus they have not proved suitable for agriculture or ‘industrial forestry’.  Consequently, in many areas,  they have remained in their 'ancient state', going back to the last ice age.  Their sessile oaks are very important for wildlife but as they are not always productive of good timber, they have often been left to grow to maturity.  By the same token, Birch trees have relatively low timber value - which has been their salvation.  Woodlands like this were more extensive in the past covering the Atlantic fringe of Western Europe from North West Scotland down to the South of Portugal.  This type of woodland is rich in terms of biodiversity (primroses, violets, wild garlic, ferns and grasses) and some species are only to be found here and nowhere else in the world. 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...

HC-leaf

Europe’s threatened trees

by Lewis ~ 20 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Recently, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) carried out a survey of the state of trees through Europe, specifically related to their risk of extinction.  There are some four hundred native tree species spread across Europe.  

Trees are not just essential for life on Earth (generating oxygen through photosynthesis) but they also provide food and habitats for hundreds of species - birds, mammals, insects, spiders etc. The loss of tree species has considerable ‘knock on’ effects in terms of the biodiversity of an area. Trees also provide us with timber and other materials (cork, cellulose, oils). 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...

Tree planting - is it always a good thing?

Tree planting – is it always a good thing?

by Lewis ~ 19 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

A number of initiatives both national and inter-national have focused on the possibility of large scale tree planting as a means of reducing the effects of climate change and keeping global warming below the critical 2oC threshold.  Indeed, some researchers have estimated that restoring and creating forests could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by 25%, ‘sucking out’ some (extra) 200 gigatonnes of CO2 and locking it away in wood.  

However, there are problems with this approach.

    • Some estimates suggest that human activities have added a massive 600 gigatonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere over the millennia
    • Restoring or establishing forests is not a ‘simple matter’ of planting some trees (albeit millions of them); there are technical and financial challenges (see * below, for exmple).

Read more...

Forest and grassland fires

Forest and grassland fires

by Lewis ~ 6 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

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...

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