Large numbers of 3D printers are now being produced and used for home use. It is estimated that the worldwide market in 3D printing will be £3 billion within 5 years - but what materials are used for printing? Most currently use plastic filament (mostly PLA or ABS), but some printers are being developed to print using more natural materials such as clay or wood, and even 'mushed-up' insects.
Standard home-use 3D printers can print in "wood fill" using a mixture of plastic and wood to create objects that look as through they are wooden whist avoiding many of the issues with production of objects using real wood. The image below this post shows an array of objects 3D-printed by a desktop machine using a "wood fill" filament supplied by ColorFabb, part of the Dutch company Helian Polymers. This woody filament contains 30% wood Read more...
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...
In every wood there is moss and leaf litter, and inhabiting these are multitudes of microscopic creatures. Many of these are mites (Acari). Mites are arthropods - literally animals with pairs of jointed legs and a hard exoskeleton (cuticle). The main groups of arthropods are
- the insects
- the crustaceans
- the myriapods and
- the arachnids
The Acari or mites (and ticks) belong with with the spiders - as arachnids. The arachnids have two main regions (or tagmata) to the body - the cephalothorax and the abdomen but these regions are difficult to distinguish in the mites - the head end is known as the gnathosoma and the posterior part as the idiosoma. They usually (but not always) have 4 pairs of jointed legs. The Acari probably outnumber all other arthropods is the soil / humus complex. Read more...
Bugs or invertebrates such as insects, arachnids, centipedes, molluscs, crustaceans and millipedes are an essential part of any ecosystem including our woodlands. In woodland they help create the leaf litter layer and dead wood which adds essential nutrients into the forest ground layer. Some insects pollinate flowers helping to create productive crops, biodiversity and picturesque woodlands. Some even provide us with honey.
The wonderful birdlife we have in this country thrives due to the large number of insects which are essential food stuff for birds, including our woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers and willow warblers. Read more...
Pond building in woodland is more than just digging a big hole. It is very much about creating a habitat, which is varied but which actually keeps the water in. Over the last month or so, we have been digging a large wildlife pond in Kent not only for wildlife but also for enjoyment. We wanted an expanse of water that would be big enough for some canoeing and paddling around in small boats.
To do the job, we employed a pair of digger drivers with their machines but we were very much involved in the design and practicalities. I knew several people who had dug ponds and lakes but in this case I particularly wanted something with an island; hoping that this could be a protected area for bird nesting - as well as an interesting feature. Read more...
Butterfly Conservation UK and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have been involved in the monitoring the status of butterflies through various citizen science schemes*. UK butterflies (and indeed, birds) are probably the best-studied wildlife groups thanks to the dedication of an enormous workforce of highly skilled and committed volunteer recorders. Butterflies and birds have been observed and recorded in detail for many, many years and these detailed records and counts yield an invaluable resource of information for the analysis of population change(s).
For those wanting to follow up on the different forms of wildlife in their woodland, the following organisations / societies might be of interest / use.
For each there is a link and a snippet from the organisation's website.
Website of the British Arachnological Society (wiki.britishspiders.org.uk). "Here you can find information on those fascinating animals, arachnids. Our emphasis is on British spiders but we don't exclude other arachnids such as Harvestmen (opilionids), Pseudoscorpions and Scorpions". Read more...
The trend in the weather since the 1980’s has been for a general increase in temperature. Perhaps, in consequence, new species of dragonfly and damselfly have arrived in Britain from the warmer climates of Southern Europe.
The following species have been recorded to date
- the Willow Emerald
- the Southern Migrant Hawker
- the Southern Emerald Damselfly
- the Vagrant Emperor
- the Small red-eyed Damselfly and
- the Dainty Damselfly.