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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...

Woodland web updates (3).

Woodland web updates (3).

by Chris ~ 14 January, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Big Garden Birdwatch.  Once again the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is about to swing into action.  This year , it will take place from the 29th to the 31st of this month.  To take part, you just need to count the birds that you see in one hour.   Details and guidance are available here : https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/everything-you-need-to-know-about-big-garden-birdwatch/ 

Butterflies (and moths).   If you are interested in adding to your knowledge of wildlife, then the Butterfly Conservation people not only offer guidance on identifying moths Read more...

woodlands web updates (1)

woodlands web updates (1)

by blogs at woodlands ~ 15 December, 2020 ~ comments welcome

The woodlands blog has reported on the anthropocene - how human activity is creating a geological era characterised by human impact on the Earth.  Now a report finds that human-made (artificial) material will this year surpass the sum total of all living material (biomass) on earth.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-3010-5

A Swedish study has shown that crop yield can be enhanced  by ensuring that woodland and grassland areas are present in the vicinity of crop fields.    If the landscape is more diverse in terms of plants and habitats, then the number of pollinators (bees snd bumblebees) is greater.   Read more...

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...

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...

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