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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...

Bumblebee update - brief notes

Bumblebee update – brief notes

by Chris ~ 28 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The yellow banded bumblebee (Bombus terricola) is a North American species of bumblebee.  It has been in decline across its range.  This bumblebee is now down to about 10% of its former numbers.   Recently, its genome has been sequenced at York University, Canada.  This genetic analysis shows that the bumblebees are inbreeding.  As bees become more inbred, the face difficulties in maintaining their population numbers.  As population become smaller, there is a greater risk of inbreeding.  Inbred bees have problems in terms of fertility.  Males can become infertile so that if they mate with a queen, there are no offspring or the queen may produce sterile males instead of worker bees. Read more...

The onward march of the bark beetles

The onward march of the bark beetles

by Chris ~ 5 August, 2018 ~ one comment

The woodlands blog has previously reported on the havoc being wreaked by bark beetles.  Such beetles may be small (about half a centimetre in length) but their effects on the western forests of North America is colossal - indeed some parts have lost 90% of their conifers.   Outbreaks of these beetles have been increasing in size and severity.

The beetles onward march was generally kept in check by long and cold winters, but with warmer temperatures (especially in the winter months) and a longer season for reproduction bark beetle populations have been gaining ground, even making their way into parts of the boreal forest of North America. Read more...

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