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Barking up the wrong tree?

Barking up the wrong tree?

by Lewis ~ 31 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In their natural environment, giant sequoias are to be found only in a high and narrow area on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.  Like, bristlecones, giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are a long lived species - their life span can be 3000 years.   However, their most spectacular feature is their sheer size - they can reach heights of 300 feet with a trunk that may be 20 feet  or more in diameter.  Indeed, the world’s largest tree (by volume) is General Sherman - a sequoia estimated to have a volume in excess of 52000 cubic feet.

The trees are not only long lived but ‘tough’.  They have protection against fire and rock fall, both of which are hazards in their home habitat.  Protection is afforded by their bark, which is very fibrous and can be up to 3 feet thick. Read more...

bumblebee on lavender

Biting bees

by woodlands blogs ~ 12 June, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In Spring, or earlier if winter has been mild, queen bumblebees emerge from ‘hibernation’, from their nests.  They then need to feed, having more or less exhausted their bodily reserves during the cold of winter.  Their food comes in the form of nectar and pollen - both of which can be in short supply in early Spring.

Whilst the bumblebees may need food, flowers also have a ‘need’-  pollinating agents - particularly bumblebees.   The inter-dependence of flowering plants and insects probably evolved many millions of years ago, back in the Cretaceous Period. Read more...

Sequoias threatened

Sequoias threatened

by Lewis ~ 21 February, 2020 ~ comments welcome

There is only one living member of the genus Sequoia,   Sequoia sempervirens : the coast redwood.  It is a coniferous trees and belongs to the family Cupressaceae. The redwoods (Sequoia sp) are amongst the largest and oldest living organisms on the planet – some are possibly more than three millennia old. The trees are found along the coastal regions of California and Oregon. 

Whilst the trees can live to a great age, recent studies have found that the trees are suffering as a result of beetle attack, prolonged drought and and fire damage.  Several of the long lived trees in the Sierra Nevada of California have died in recent years as a result of these ‘problems’.  It had been thought that such trees could survive fire or beetle attack Read more...

Earth, wind and fire - now rain and hail.

Earth, wind and fire – now rain and hail.

by Chris ~ 7 February, 2020 ~ 2 comments

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...

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...

Climate change changes phenologies.

Climate change changes phenologies.

by Chris ~ 26 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Phenology is about observing natural events and recording when things happen.   For example, when ash or horse chestnut trees come into leaf, when the first swifts are sighted or bumblebees emerge from their nests. These timings vary from year to year. By recording such events over many years, it is possible to look for trends and see if they are associated with changes in the weather or other phenomena.

Climate change has resulted in significant changes in summer and winter temperatures, and rainfall patterns.    For example,  April, May and June of 2018 were all very warm, each being at least 1.9°C above average [that is the 30 year average for 1961–90]; June was the third warmest June for the UK since 1910. Read more...

coniferous forest

German forest dieback : waldsterben 2

by Lewis ~ 6 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In recent times, new or different threats have emerged to upset the balance of woodland and forest ecosystems.   In the 1960’s and early 70’s concern focussed on the effects of air pollution, particularly the effects of acid rain.  This type of pollution was characterised by the deposition / assimilation of sulphur dioxide and its derivatives (sulphuric & sulphurous acid), plus various nitrogen oxides.  This air pollution was largely due to industry and traffic.

Some of the most striking effects of ‘acid rain’ pollution were seen in the coniferous forests of Germany - where it was termed : Waldsterben [Wald=forest plus sterben=to die].  Read more...

Fires, Seeds and Serotiny

Fires, Seeds and Serotiny

by Chris ~ 29 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Seeds are dispersed from a parent plant by a variety of means.  Some plants use wind dispersal (sycamore, dandelion), some use animals (burdock, herb bennet), some even use water (willow, silver birch, coconut and the famous coco de mer).  But in some parts of the world, such as South Africa and Australia, fire is a feature of certain ecosystems and the fire and/or smoke can be the stimulus for seed dispersal and germination.   Read more...

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