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Urban Foxes - updated.

Urban Foxes – updated.

by Lewis ~ 4 January, 2021 ~ 7 comments

Urban foxes are sometimes in the news as they get noticed with their roaming through urban gardens, and occasionally entering houses.  Indeed,  attacks on people and pets have been reported.  More often foxes come to attention when people are disturbed at the night by the strange, ‘metallic' screams of the foxes, especially during their mating system (December through to February).  There are significant numbers of foxes in our cities.  Estimates vary but it is thought that there may be 150,000 or more urban foxes or ‘townies’ and perhaps 400,000 foxes in total throughout the U.K.  The average life of an urban fox has been estimated at about eighteen months to two years, partly because many are killed on the roads (often the younger foxes). In the wild, a fox can live for up to 8 years.

In Scotland, a fox’s territory can range over several miles but in towns their territories are much smaller.  They survive, in part, because we are careless in terms of the disposal of our waste food; and also because some people put out food for foxes.  In the country, their diet would include small mammals, bird eggs, insects, earthworms, wild fruits / berries and carrion. It has been suggested that the high populations of rats and mice in London are a 'big draw' for urban foxes, and they help in keeping numbers of rats down in the city. Read more...

Medicine for bumblebees

Medicine for bumblebees

by Chris ~ 26 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Some 90% of the world's plants, including many food crops, rely on animals for pollination (as opposed to wind or even rarer water pollination). The contribution of honey bees and bumblebees to these pollination services is vital but they are at risk due to:

  • the effects of disease, 
  • climate change 
  • effects of pesticides and 
  • habitat loss / destruction.

Whilst it is sometimes possible to help hives / colonies of the ‘domesticated’ honeybee suffering from parasites / disease, ‘helping’ wild populations is a much more difficult proposition. 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...

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...

Dutch Elm disease and Brighton’s National Collection of elm trees

Dutch Elm disease and Brighton’s National Collection of elm trees

by Oliver ~ 23 June, 2013 ~ 5 comments

Brighton in Sussex is home to Britain’s largest population of Elm trees. These 19,000 elm trees are known as The National Collection. Elm trees are increasingly rare due to the blight brought by Dutch Elm disease principally in the 1970s.  Initially this came into the UK as long ago as 1926.  Dutch Elm disease is a fungus carried by beetles and affects only elm trees. In response to this attack, an elm tree will automatically produce tyloses, an effective natural defence against the 1926 strain of Dutch Elm disease. Tyloses occur in the xylem - water conducting vessels of the plant / tree, sealing them off and restricting the movement of the pathogen.

However in the early 1970's,  a new strain of Dutch Elm disease was imported from channel ports, linked directly to the Canadian Rock Elm. This strain travels faster through the elm trees and kills them before they can produce tyloses. Since the introduction of this strain of Dutch Elm disease to Britain, the number of elm trees has gone down from about 3 million to fewer than 200,000 and many of these are very young ones which will certainly succumb to the disease. Elm trees reproduce by root stalks more often than by seed and so this transmission mechanism quickly spreads the disease between elm trees and along elm hedgerows. Read more...

Ash dieback - what to do?  Pre-empt, plant, persevere, keep calm and carry on.

Ash dieback – what to do? Pre-empt, plant, persevere, keep calm and carry on.

by Richard ~ 30 October, 2012 ~ 5 comments

The last ice age endured for about 100,000 yrs.  Some 18,000 yrs ago, mammoths, sabre-toothed tiger and woolly rhino (preyed on by prehistoric man) roamed our land.  Thick ice sheets lay to the North, whilst to the South was tundra - much like that now seen in Northern Siberia. Then 10,000 years later, the ice sheets started to melt and the tundra receded; sea levels rose and low lying areas were flooded.   The North Sea and English Channel formed, cutting us off from mainland Europe. This was a gradual process (in our terms) and as Europe warmed,  trees migrated northwards - some reaching the UK before we were cut off from the rest of Europe.  Most plant colonisation was by seed and spores, animals followed bringing with them other taxa. Read more...

Bluebells and boars

Bluebells and boars

by Lewis ~ 9 April, 2012 ~ 2 comments

Wild boar became extinct in the U.K. in the thirteenth century –so we have been ‘boar free’ for circa 700 years.  However, towards the end of the last century commercial pig farming developed; seemingly some escaped and have established free living and breeding populations.

Attitudes to these pigs / boars fall into two broad categories :

  • those who welcome the return / reintroduction of a missing species and its ecological impact
  • those who have a more negative perception of the boar – in that, they do damage, have the potential to harbour disease and can cause direct damage to people. Read more...
Forestry Commission accounts - a forest of facts

Forestry Commission accounts – a forest of facts

by Angus ~ 16 February, 2012 ~ Comments Off on Forestry Commission accounts – a forest of facts

The Forestry Commission (FC) owns and manges over a million hectares of land and so must know a thing or two about UK forestry, and much is revealed in the Forestry Commission's formal accounts. This is a long document, at over 150 pages, but rather than pay £23.50 for it you can get the accounts online for free. Even though it's free many people would consider a set of Forestry Commission accounts to be a tedious read so we've been through them and dug out some interesting material. For example the key figure that the FC expect to pay for woodland management each year is about £72 per hectare or about £29 per acre per year, after taking account of income generated. Our surveys of owners of small woodlands show that they typically spend more than this on a per acre basis, so it is surprising that the report, rather dismissively, refers to strong demand for "hobby woodlands" and environmental ownership" Read more...

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