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AI technology harnessing the hoverflies.

AI technology harnessing the hoverflies.

by Lewis ~ 2 November, 2020 ~ 2 comments

The loss of pollinators, particularly honey bees, may bring about a synergy between pollinators such as hover flies and artificial intelligence technology.  Honey bees (and indeed bumblebee)s have been hit hard by habitat loss, pollution, the  extensive use of pesticides and the spread of viruses and varroa.  Bees provide an important ecosystem service, namely pollination.   bees provide the majority of plant pollination world-wide but the bees are fighting a losing battle and this represents a threat to food supplies.  In the United States, bee hives are 'bussed around' in a somewhat 'cavalier manner', indeed "Hives may be moved multiple times and several thousand miles per year" Read more...

Pollution and pollinators.

Pollution and pollinators.

by Chris ~ 18 September, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Plants and animals provide us with many important ecosystem services.   One critical ecosystem service is pollination; this is mainly done by insects - such as bees, bumblebees, moths and hoverflies. Insects are often attracted to flowers by scent, when volatile oils are released that act as chemical signals to ‘tell’ insects about their presence in the environment. This signalling is the result of a relationship between flowers and insects that has evolved over millions of years.  However, in relatively recent times, we (as a species) have been responsible for many changes to the Earth and its atmosphere.  Many gases and materials have been released into the air which have ‘mixed’ with the wide variety of natural scents and smells that are used for plant and animal communication.

One such pollutant at low levels is ozone. Higher up in the atmosphere, the ozone layer prevents too much damaging UV light from reaching the Earth's surface.  However, at ground level, the oxidizing potential of ozone can cause damage to respiratory tissues in animals. Read more...

mowed roadside verge

‘Verging on the ridiculous?’

by Chris ~ 5 September, 2020 ~ one comment

It is clear that wildlife is in decline, not just in the U.K, but across Europe, America - in fact wherever you look. Over the last century, over 90% of meadows have been lost in the U.K.   This decline in natural habitats / ecosystems is largely due to urban growth and the expansion & intensification of agriculture.  Concomitant with the loss of natural habitats is the loss of wildlife.  One particular cause for concern is the ‘disappearance’ or decline in numbers of some many insect species, especially pollinators.  The woodlands blog has reported many times on honeybee and bumblebee numbers.`   Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies or hoverflies,  need to find food (nectar & pollen), plants on which their larvae can feed, sites for nesting, reproduction and over-wintering.

With the growth of cities and agriculture there has been an expansion of transport networks, particularly roads. There are more than 30,000 miles of major roads in UK in 2019, with some 2,300+ miles of that being motorways.   Roads clearly have a number of ecological impacts (dividing up the landscape being one) but they also offer ‘habitats’ alongside the road. Read more...

Meeting the 'queen bee' of British Bumblebees

Meeting the ‘queen bee’ of British Bumblebees

by Angus ~ 9 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Gill Perkins is one of those people you can't help liking - there's a smile in her voice when she speaks and we found her to be generous with her time and knowledge.  She arrived early for our woodland meeting and had come equipped - a small plastic tube with a plunger (costing about £5) allows her to catch bumblebees as they graze on flowers and she can trap them for long enough to tell us that "this one's a queen of the buff-tailed type and you can see she's very freshly minted as her wings are so undamaged ... a lovely specimen ...".    She releases the bee and it seems quite unphased as it quickly goes back to collecting nectar. Gill loves to get out into the woods and see the bees first-hand - most of the rest of the time she's in her office with the 40 or so staff employed by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and despite being the Trust's CEO she's often teaching groups about bumblebees and working with various sponsors including a big housebuilder and a big London law firm. Read more...

In praise of hoverflies

In praise of hoverflies

by Lewis ~ 24 May, 2020 ~ one comment

The hoverfly is so named because it does hover, its flight path is  somewhat hesitant, moving along in a sort of zig-zag at times; it is sometimes mistaken for a bee or a wasp due to its colour and 'stripes'. There are roughly some 6,000 species of hoverflies.  Hoverflies are to be found on every continent  with exception of Antarctica (plus some small, remote islands); and in many different biomes .

Like bees and bumblebees, hoverflies are pollinators but bees and bumblebees have had a ‘better press’ - known as being important for the pollination of many fruit and crop species. Now Dr. Wotton and his team [at Exeter University] suggest that hoverflies are sometimes more effective pollinators than bumblebees / bees and that their role in fertilising crops might have been underestimated.   It is thought that hoverflies could prove to be useful pollinators where bees do not ‘perform’ well; i.e. outside of mediterranean or temperate habitats / climates, where temperatures are lower.  The flies carry pollen over considerable distances and may visit isolated plants. Read more...

field margin

The importance of small woodlands

by Lewis ~ 27 March, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Recently, researchers have looked at the significance of small patches of woodland / forest in agricultural landscapes. Woodland and forest fragmentation has occurred as agriculture has expanded, as had the loss of hedgerows, Alicia Valdes and colleagues at the University of Stockholm have examined over two hundred patches of woodland / forest in farming areas in France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden. Read more...

Biodiversity and farming

Biodiversity and farming

by Lewis ~ 22 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

We are dependent on ecosystem services . At the most basic of levels, early humans benefitted from the ‘products of nature”; that is fruits and seeds to eat, animals to hunt.   Ecosystems, like woodlands, provided shelter from some of the harsher aspects of climate and weather.  Now we can add in ‘services’ such as the provision of medicines, waste removal, nutrient recycling and recreational experiences. Read more...

Payment for what . . ?

Payment for what . . ?

by Gabriel Hemery ~ 2 April, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation and lead author of the British Woodlands Survey 2017, provides some insights into the perceived murky world of payment for ecosystem services.

Some readers may be aware of the recent publication of a report for the British Woodlands Survey 2017 (BWS2017). Over the last two years I’ve led a collaborative group of researchers from Sylva Foundation, Forest Research, Woodland Trust, and Oxford University in seeking to gain deeper understanding of awareness, actions and aspirations among woodland owners and agents, forestry professionals, businesses, and others with a stake in the future of forestry in the UK. Read more...

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