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Can woodlands and forests ‘overcome’ drought?

Can woodlands and forests ‘overcome’ drought?

by blogs at woodlands ~ 5 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

One particular concern of continued climate change and global warming is drought.  Not only will drought affect people but also plants. Droughts can inhibit the growth of trees, or kill them.  Over time, they can change the species make up of woodlands and forests.   If woodlands and forests experience drought then this will seriously impact their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - they act as carbon sinks and help mitigate climate change.

Recently Tom Ovenden et al from Stirling University and Forest research at Roslin have focused on the effects of climate on Scots Pine.  Scots Pine is a widely distributed tree across Europe and often planted for its timber.  It is a ‘favourite’ with red squirrels.  The research team examined the trees in a pine forest that was planted (near Inverness) back in 1935.  They examined tree rings from trees from high and low density stands.  A ring forms each year and the width of the ring is a measure of the growth the tree has achieved in a particular year.  Wide rings indicating substantial growth.  The width of the rings was then correlated with climate records.  The rings formed in ‘drought years’ was compared to growth in average (non drought) years, and to the rings formed in ‘post drought’ years. Read more...

upland stream

“The Scottish Uplands: how to revive a degraded landscape” a talk by Dr Helen Armstrong

by Angus ~ 14 November, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Checking through my emails, I came across a link sent by a friend to one of the winter talks in the program offered by the Botanical Society of Scotland - specifically The Scottish Uplands: how to revive a degraded landscapeby Dr Helen Armstrong.  The talk was live-streamed but was also recorded and is available here.  

Dr Armstrong spent 24 years at the Nature Conservancy Council, the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forest Research carrying out research and advisory work.


The following is an attempt to summarise some of the key features of her informative and enlightening talk. Read more...

Leaf fall and litter.

Leaf fall and litter.

by Chris ~ 17 April, 2020 ~ comments welcome

The autumnal fall of leaves in deciduous trees is a well recognised event; their changing colours prior to being shed often make for spectacular displays - the New England Fall. Evergreens (with certain exceptions) do not undergo a similar loss of leaves but that is not to say that their leaves are forever green or permanent.  Indeed, each year, evergreens have a seasonal drop of their needle-shaped leaves, it is normal part of the tree’s cycle.  The leaves / needles of conifers have varying life spans; they are not a ‘permanent fixture’. 

Many conifer needles will turn yellow then as they age, falling off the tree after one to several years. This change can be gradual or in some species quite rapid.  White Pines (Pinus strobus) typically retain their leaves for 2 to 3 years, whereas Scots Pines (Pinus sylvestris) usually retain their needles for three years. Larches, which are conifers (Larix sp) are somewhat unusual in that they shed their leaves every autumn.  The stress that a tree experiences through drought may result in more rapid browning and greater loss of leaves. Read more...

Planting trees - millions of them

Planting trees – millions of them

by Chris ~ 17 June, 2019 ~ one comment

Following the First World War, the UK’s woodland coverage was at an all time low – just 5 per cent of total land area. The Acland Committee reported to then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, that state organisation would be the most effective way to bring about re-afforestation of the UK and plan for the future of British woodland.  

As a result, the Forestry Commission was set up and, throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, it voraciously bought up land.  The aim of the Forestry Commission was to ensure that there would be a strategic reserve of timber, so, as it acquired land, it began to plant - mainly with conifers .

Low grade’ lands (those that were less in demand for agriculture) were pressed into service such as areas around Thetford Chase and Kielder, as were some sandy coastal sites (e.g. Holkham in Norfolk Read more...

discarded Christmas tree

Recycling Christmas Trees 

by Chris ~ 1 January, 2019 ~ 2 comments

Each year, some eight million ‘natural’ Christmas Trees [which may be Norway Spruce or Silver Fir or Nordmann Fir  or Scots Pine] are bought in the U.K; it is estimated that several million of these end up in landfill.   When a tree ends up in landfill, it costs the local authority as they have to pay for every tonne of waste sent to landfill. Whilst consigning them to landfill is better than them being discarded in local streets or left on pavements etc, the needles and wood of the trees take time to decompose [think of the soft cushion underfoot when walking through a pine woodland]. Also, the process of decomposition releases significant quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Sometimes the councils have schemes so that the trees are shredded / chipped to create material that can be used as mulch / weed suppressant / soil conditioner. Read more...

Forest fires in Sweden

Forest fires in Sweden

by Lewis ~ 23 July, 2018 ~ one comment

Sweden has a lot of forest and woodland.   In fact, roughly half of the country is covered by trees.  Travelling back some two thousand years, the trees were mainly broadleaved but then oaks and alders began to decline.  However, by the mid twentieth century Spruces and Pines were dominant.  This was mainly due to the process of forestry management, producing wood for fuel, charcoal [used in iron smelting], potash, tar and timber for building.

However, the recent record breaking temperatures and drought across many parts of Europe have put large areas of Swedish forest at risk.   Rainfall in Sweden this year has been dramatically down - approximately a seventh of the normal amount. One has to look back to the C19th century to find similarly low figures.  Read more...

Trees for Christmas.

Trees for Christmas.

by Lewis ~ 19 December, 2017 ~ 5 comments

Each year, a variety of conifers are sold as Christmas trees, for example, the

  • Norway Spruce Picea abies
  • Silver Fir Abies alba 
  • Nordmann Fir Abies normanniana
  • Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris

and in North America

  • Douglas Fir Pseudotuga menziesii  and
  • Balsam Fir Abies balsamea.

Read more...

A year in our very own woodland – by Mark Vesey 

A year in our very own woodland – by Mark Vesey 

by blogs at woodlands ~ 8 November, 2017 ~ 3 comments

In autumn 2016 my wife and I visited a small wood for sale on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. We had seen a few other sites but this held more promise as it was part moorland, part regenerating ex-forestry land.  The three things that made it of particularly interest to us were that: it was only twenty minutes away from home; it had a small natural pond; and it had some open space for planting new trees.  As a green person at heart, I often pick up acorns on walks and pop them in a pot.  I was however running short of space and needed somewhere to plant them!

Dan, from Woodlands.co.uk, met us on site and explained that the management plan favoured planting oak trees so that made it ideal for us. After a few months of paperwork, we received the key to the padlock of the woodland gate just before Christmas. A nicer present could not have been had. Read more...

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