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Shellfish, fires and forest productivity

Shellfish, fires and forest productivity

by Chris ~ 30 December, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The loss of woodlands and forest across the world is but another example of human interference with natural ecosystems.    Tropical forests are raided for their exotic hardwoods or subject to wholesale clearing for ‘cash crops’ e.g. oil palms.  However, it would seem that this destruction is nothing new.    

Professors Kaplan and Kolen have analysed soils for ash and suggested that the early (hunter-gatherer) settlers in Europe lit fires to clear the ‘wildwood’ so that grassland or more open woodland / steppe-like areas would develop.    Read more...

Fires and climate change

Fires and climate change

by Chris ~ 17 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The recent hot spell has seen a number of fires, not only in the UK but across the world (Arizona , Victoria Australia, Indonesia).  Spells of extreme heat (and drought) have been known throughout history but it would seem that with climate change / global warming extreme events have become more common.   Data show that the years of the 21st century are among the warmest on record - global air temperatures have risen by 1oC since the industrial revolution.

Extreme temperatures have been recorded in many places across the globe.   Ouargla in Algeria soared to 124.3o F (51.3oC), Denver recorded at temperature of 105o F, Montreal recorded 97.9o F, Glasgow hit 89.4o F, Shannon in Ireland reached 89.6o F, Tbilisi (Georgia) soared to 104.9o F and parts of Pakistan are reported to have reached 50oC.   No record by itself can be ascribed to global warming but these and many other records across the globe are consistent with the extremes that can now be expected (more often) in a world that is warming - as atmospheric greenhouse gas levels increase due to human activity (we have entered the anthropocene).

Hot and dry conditions mean that plant material can dry out quickly, so that a thicker layer of pant material / litter is formed - which provides significant fuel for fires.   Studies of some areas suggest that the increased Winter and Spring rainfall (again associated with climate change) encourages plant growth, creating more material for fires (when dry conditions obtain later in the year). Read more...

Woodlands, climate and robustness.

Woodlands, climate and robustness.

by Lewis ~ 13 January, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Climate change is a fact, though not one always accepted by certain politicians.   Greenhouse gas emissions have been growing since the C18th, and particularly in the period 1970 - 2004.   The warming of the world climate system is certain; air and ocean temperatures have increased.  

Though we cannot say how climate will change in any specific area with certainty, we can be sure that extreme weather events will become more common - droughts, heat waves, heavy rainfall, high winds and cyclones. Read more...

The mediterranean cypress and forest fires.

The mediterranean cypress and forest fires.

by Chris ~ 7 October, 2016 ~ one comment

According the United Nations FAO, some two million hectares of forest were burnt in the Mediterranean region, between 2006 and 2010.  Most of these fires were 'human induced'; they (the fires) are the most frequent cause of degradation / loss of forest / woodland in this region.  In 2012, a fire swept through some 20,000 hectares of forest near Andilla (Valencia).   After the fire, it was found that though oaks, holm oaks, pines and junipers had been completely burnt, the vast majority (98% +) of the Mediterranean Cypresses were still standing, tall and green.   There followed a three year study of the fire resilience of the Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens var horizontalis) to see if stands of these trees might function as buffer zones to hinder or prevent the spread of forest fires. Read more...

Why camping in your own wood is special

Why camping in your own wood is special

by Angus ~ 11 July, 2014 ~ 6 comments

Camping in your own wood (or a friend's wood) is totally different than staying at a conventional campsite.  There is more freedom, more choice and more solitude - you can do lots of things that would not normally be allowed.  Recently, I was invited to a woodland to camp with some friends where we experienced free-range camping first-hand.

For any camping expedition, it is important to locate a camping area - we found a grassy glade surrounded by beech trees.  Next, you need to find a good spot on which to pitch your tent - ground that initially seems flat is, by the end of the first night, clearly very 'slopy'!   Read more...

Native dominants or botanical 'thugs’ in woodland.

Native dominants or botanical ‘thugs’ in woodland.

by Lewis ~ 28 March, 2014 ~ 2 comments

Much has been written  recent in recent years about the ‘dangers’ posed to our native flora & ecosystems by ‘alien’ invasive species.  Introduced species such Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), and Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) have been cited as ‘drivers’ of ecosystem change – alongside habitat loss, pollution and over-exploitation.

However, voices have been raised to express concern over certain native species that can grow rapidly producing large amount of biomass (or indeed necromass – think bracken dying down in late autumn) and how they may be impacting on our flora, particularly plants of the woodland herb or field layer.  Read more...

The redwoods.

The redwoods.

by Chris ~ 17 January, 2014 ~ 4 comments

Every now and then, whilst strolling through a woodland one comes across a truly massive coniferous tree - with a thick fibrous bark.  Such trees are usually redwoods - often planted many years ago as an 'exotic'.   Victorian land owners were quite 'fond' of planting unusual species.   There are three species of coniferous trees known as the redwoods

  • the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens ),
  • the giant redwood (sometimes known as Wellingtonia) (Sequoiadendron giganteum), and
  • the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) .

The first two are natives of the western Sierra Nevada of California Read more...

The effects of drought – go on and on.

The effects of drought – go on and on.

by Chris ~ 28 August, 2013 ~ one comment

With the recent spell of fine weather, some people may have wandered down memory lane and recalled “the summer of 76”.  Then, the temperature reached 80oF from June 22nd through to the 16th July, and for two weeks the temperatures in some areas exceeded 90oF.

However, temperature was not the only environmental factor to stress plants – lack of rainfall or drought was also a major factor.  The previous autumn had been quite dry, as was the winter of  1975–76.   The drought became most severe during the summer months - with woodland, forest and heath fires breaking out.  Crop production was also severely affected, and there was water rationing (and stand pipes) in some areas.

Ecologists* from the University of Stirling (Professor Alistair Jump) and the JNCC have recently investigated the (long term) effects of the 1976 drought on native woodland.   They examined the records of Lady Park Wood in the Wye Valley.  This 45 hectare Nature Reserve was ideal for a detailed study as there existed long term records  / surveys Read more...

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