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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...

Hedgehog havens ?

Hedgehog havens ?

by Lewis ~ 8 July, 2019 ~ comments welcome

The hedgehog was once a common visitor to urban gardens, but now its numbers are in steep decline.   Our hedgehogs face a number of threats in the modern, urban environment.   For example :

  • Being hurt by a pet dog
  • Being hit by a car
  • Ingesting slug pellets (metaldehyde - a poison)
  • Becoming entangled in netting for growing peas / beans
  • Getting stuck in a discarded tin can
  • Entanglement in discarded rubber bands
  • Being burnt in a bonfire whilst hibernating / sheltering
  • Being wounded by garden implements eg. strimmers

Read more...

Planting trees - millions of them

Planting trees – millions of them

by Chris ~ 17 June, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Following the First World War, the UK’s woodland coverage was at an all time low – just 5 per cent of total land area. The Acland Committee reported to then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, that state organisation would be the most effective way to bring about re-afforestation of the UK and plan for the future of British woodland.  

As a result, the Forestry Commission was set up and, throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, it voraciously bought up land.  The aim of the Forestry Commission was to ensure that there would be a strategic reserve of timber, so, as it acquired land, it began to plant - mainly with conifers .

Low grade’ lands (those that were less in demand for agriculture) were pressed into service such as areas around Thetford Chase and Kielder, as were some sandy coastal sites (e.g. Holkham in Norfolk Read more...

Insect Pollinators in decline

Insect Pollinators in decline

by Lewis ~ 13 April, 2019 ~ one comment

The science journal Nature has published the results of another insect survey, specifically of pollinating insects.   The UK pollinator monitoring scheme looked at some 353 species of bees, bumblebees and hoverflies.  The survey analysed 700,000+ sightings of pollinating insects over thirty years or more (1980 to 2013).  The survey yielded information about the changes in the range of these different pollinators - that is the different parts of the countryside that these insects were found in.  The survey did not attempt to determine actual numbers of bees etc in an area.   There were “winners and losers’ in the survey but the overall picture was somewhat depressing. Read more...

When the Earth’s forests burned.

When the Earth’s forests burned.

by Lewis ~ 17 February, 2019 ~ one comment

Some sixty six million years ago, much of the Earth ‘caught fire’.  A large asteroid smashed into the Earth (on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico).   The force of the impact has been estimated to have been a billion times greater than the force of the atomic bombs deployed at the end of WW2.   The impact of the asteroid and its effects were devastating, resulting in catastrophe on a global scale.   The event has been mainly associated with the extinction of the dinosaurs.  Immediate to the impact, rocks and material was ejected high into the atmosphere - as this material fell back to earth, searing heat was generated and fires were ignited; indeed, intense forest fires were ignited certainly across the Americas.    Read more...

‘Waste’ Materials to landfill, coffee grounds.

‘Waste’ Materials to landfill, coffee grounds.

by Lewis ~ 5 January, 2019 ~ one comment

A recent woodlands blog discussed the millions of Christmas trees that end up as landfill material.  This is also true for a material that is generated in cafes and restaurants across the U.K - the ‘waste material’ is coffee grounds. Coffee is the second largest traded commodity after petroleum.  One estimate suggests that six million tonnes of spent coffee grounds go to landfill every year.  Landfill sites account for a fifth of the UK’s methane emissions; methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas associated with global warming & climate change. Read more...

Ginkgo leaves fall later in late ‘fall'

Ginkgo leaves fall later in late ‘fall’

by Lewis ~ 20 November, 2018 ~ one comment

Ginkgo biloba or the maidenhair tree is unusual in many respects.  It is often described as ‘a living fossil” - as is the horseshoe crab and the coelacanth .   Ginkgo is a long lived, deciduous tree with distinctive leaves.  The leaves are fan shaped (jpg adjacent), but notched or divided - forming two lobes (hence biloba)  The leaf veins radiate out into the leaf blade from the leaf stalk - but do not form a network.  Two veins enter the leaf at its base and these split into two again and again.  This is known as dichotomous venation (see image).  The leaves can be between two and four inches long, and have a long, slender petiole (leaf stalk).   Apart from their physical appearance, the leaves of Ginkgo are unusual in term of the autumnal leaf drop.   Read more...

Robustness and the resilience of woodlands.

Robustness and the resilience of woodlands.

by Lewis ~ 28 September, 2018 ~ 2 comments

Over the centuries, our woodlands have experienced (to a degree) a relatively stable environment - both in terms of climate and biological ‘incursions’.  There have been occasional ‘perturbations’ some climate or weather related - such as the Great Storm of 1987 and some biological such as Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970’s.

Our woodlands have been managed largely on the basis of this stability - a relatively constant biological and physical environment.  However now, climate change is an established fact and the number of biological threats to our native flora and fauna has increased significantly in recent times.   Climate change has seen the advance of Spring and more ‘extreme weather’ [for example, drought, high winds] plus the large scale movement / importation of trees, timber and plants from many different parts of the world has lead to the introduction of various pathogens and pests.  Read more...

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