Two decades after were first returned to the UK, in Scotland, and 400 years after the species was hunted to extinction in Britain, counties across England and Wales will also become home to new beaver families. Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK some 4000 years ago. A number have been reintroduced in Scotland and the South West, but this year should seen more re-introduction in Wales, the Isle of Wight, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It is hoped the beavers’ activities will help restore/create wetland habitats, boosting biodiversity and reducing flood risks. Further details of these reintroductions can be found here.
As the woodlands blog has reported, peatlands are often under threat, for example, by fire. The Wildlife Trusts has called on the Government to do more to protect and restore our carbon rich habitats. The peatlands of the UK are estimated to store 3.2 billion tonnes of sequestered carbon - more than UK woodlands.
London is to introduce a green space system in the coming months - termed the Urban Greening Factor (UGF). The Green Space Factor is an innovation of the City of Berlin in 1994, The plan calls for the various boroughs to implement urban greening practices. Ideas behind the plan have also come from the Swedish city of Malmö. Here, the Western Harbour (20-minutes from Malmö’s centre), was essentially 175 acres of contaminated soil and deserted docklands, subsequent to decline of the city’s shipbuilding industry. But now, it has been redeveloped with new apartment blocks - each of which is complemented by a green space area. There are parks, social courtyards and meeting spaces which offers beds planted with a native herbs and wildflowers. There are also stormwater drains and ponds that offer opportunities for wildlife.
The impact of the road network.
Our road network is extensive. There are nearly 700,000 km of road across the UK, which cover some 0.8% of the land. Roads permeate nearly every part of the country. Roadless areas are in short supply; they are mainly upland regions (peat bogs, moors, heathland and grasslands). Pollution from roads can take many forms
- Light pollution,
- Noise pollution,
- Heavy metals,
- Nitrogen oxides
- Particulates (PM2.5 & PM10)
Whilst high levels of pollution are localised and associated with the busiest roads, a recent study (by researchers at Exeter University and the CEH) suggest that low levels of pollution from road networks are pervasive, and may extend over 70% of the land area of the UK.
As the woodlands blog has reported, hedges can help block pollution to some degree and this has been substantiated by work done by Dr Tijana Blanusa et al at the Royal Horticultural Society. They investigated the effectiveness of hedges in ‘soaking up’ pollution, comparing different types of shrubs/trees - such as hawthorn and western red cedar. They found that on roads with heavy traffic that a species of Cotoneaster (franchetti) was 20% more effective than other species; though shrubs with ‘hairy’ leaves were generally effective in ‘trapping’ particulates.
In winter, woods can seem a bit ‘naked’ and empty. Trees and shrubs have entered into a dormant state in order to survive the rigours of the winter months. Their buds await the signals that herald Spring. Many birds will have migrated to warmer climes, some animals will be hibernating. Many insects will be spending the winter as eggs or pupae, whilst herbaceous plants will over-winter as seeds, corms or bulbs.
But on the bark of many trees and on the surfaces of fences and walls, there will be lichens – they are there in summer, winter, spring and autumn. Lichens are rather unusual in that they are an amalgam of two (or occasionally three) organisms : a fungus and algae. They are symbiotic systems, where two partners work together for mutual benefit (occasionally there are more than two partners). The fungus makes up the bulk of the lichen’s structure (known as the thallus), but the algae (green algae or cyanobacteria) are essential as they can photosynthesise and provide the organism with carbohydrates. The nature of the biochemistry and physiology of the lichen symbiosis is largely due to the pioneering work of Dr David Smith at the University of Oxford in the 1960's and 70's. Read more...
Plastic mulch - white (though sometimes black) polyethylene strips, each about a meter wide, can occasionally be seen stretching across fields. Crops grow through the slits or holes in the thin plastic sheeting. The sheets are used because they help to
- conserve water,
- suppress weeds,
- reduce soil compaction
- boost soil temperatures
- reduce waste - by keeping ripening fruit off the soil
For some years now, the United Nations has promoted an ‘international day of forests’. Essentially, the day is a celebration of forests and woodlands; it seeks to raise awareness and importance of all types of woodland (large or small). Woodlands and forests offer a wide range of ‘ecological services’ : Read more...
We are seeing increasing interest in the forestry industry in ‘Natural Capital’ – defined in simple terms as the wide range of benefits derived from nature.
What is it?
‘Natural Capital’ refers to the value forestry and woodlands offer above and beyond commercial timber value. This includes the benefits and services that a woodland may offer such as cleaner air, flood defence, climate regulation, pollination or recreation and health benefits. This is not a new concept to owners of small woods who have long considered the value of their woodlands to be so much more than value of the trees themselves. Read more...
Once upon a time, beavers (Castor fiber) were widespread in the U.K, however, there are few records after the 11th century and by the sixteenth century they were extinct . They are still to be found in Europe; several thousand live on or near the Elbe and the Rhône, and in parts of Scandinavia.
They were hunted to extinction as the animal provided meat, fur and ‘medicine’. The yellow secretion of their anal glands (castoreum) was used, at one time, as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic. The Romans thought that the fumes from burning castoreum could induce an abortion. Medical uses are no longer ‘in vogue’ but castoreum is used in the making of certain perfumes. Read more...
Many parts of the UK have recently experienced the driest October to March period for a long time. This was followed by two relatively dry Spring months - April & May. The Met Office Map of the UK found here - shows the rainfall pattern across the country as a percentage of the average rainfall for a 30 years period.
This has not only affected gardeners and farmers but river systems across the United Kingdom. This is bad news as many rivers have already had too much water taken from them (abstracted) - for farming & industry. The problem of over-extraction of river water is not helped by the fact that one fifth of all piped water is lost through leaks. Thames water was recently fined millions for failing to reach its leak reduction targets. Read more...
National Tree Week is approaching; it is organised by The Tree Council. This year, it runs from the 26th November to the 4th December. This year's poster for the week is the headline image (opposite) *. The main aim of the week is to encourage the planting of trees. Tree planting is important as many of our trees are now under threat, for example, bleeding canker and the leaf miner moth can attack Horse Chestnut, whilst the Ash is succumbing to Ash Dieback (Chalara). Read more...