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"tropical nights' and greening our cities

“tropical nights’ and greening our cities

by blogs at woodlands ~ 3 April, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Much of England experienced a series of ‘tropical nights’ last summer, when night time temperatures were 20oC or above.  These tropical nights were associated with the heat wave that affected most of south east England.  Central London experienced its longest stretch of extreme daytime temperatures since the 1960’s -  temperatures of 30+oC were recorded on six consecutive days.  A number of experts have said that such heatwaves and associated tropical nights are likely to become more common as a consequence of climate change.  

We were not alone in experiencing high temperatures by day and night, much of western Europe  sweltered in the heat this August. The problem was most marked in urban areas and large cities.  Some three-quarters of the population of Europe now live in urban areas. Extreme heat affects our health causing general discomfort, malaise, respiratory problems, headaches, heat stroke, heat cramps and heat-related mortality.  Read more...

Woodland and hedgerow plants - the primrose.

Woodland and hedgerow plants – the primrose.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 5 March, 2021 ~ 2 comments

Primroses were said to be the favourite flower of Benjamin Disraeli, indeed he wrote of them that he liked primroses so much better for their being wild “they seem an offering from the fauns and dryads of the woods”.  On his death, Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to his funeral with a note ‘his favourite flower’ (though it is not clear whether this referenced Disraeli or her late husband - Albert).

Primroses are generally regarded as the harbingers of Spring, indeed the name Primrose comes from the latin for first rose - Prima Rosa. In different parts of the country, the primrose sometimes has other names such ‘Easter Rose’, ‘Lent Rose’ and ‘Early Rose’.  Its scientific name is Primula vulgaris. Read more...

Woodlands web updates (2)

Woodlands web updates (2)

by blogs at woodlands ~ 3 January, 2021 ~ 2 comments

Holly and ivy have seasonal connotations, and due to climate change they are probably looking quite lush and vigorous at present.  Studies have shown that in recent times, holly has spread further north in Europe than ever before - ‘pushing forward’ by some eighty miles since the 1960’s.  Ivy too is on the move, growing vigourously.  However with both plants, their growth can come as a threat to other woodland species, smothering some (Ivy can grow to great heights using its tiny adventitious roots) or when growing horizontally it can affect the herb layer.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/dec/16/plantwatch-holly-ivy-and-how-warmer-weather-boosts-christmas-plants Read more...

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 blogs at woodlands ~ 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...

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