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Creating diverse woodlands and forests

by blogs at woodlands, 14 December, 2021, 2 comments

We know that forests are important to all life on the planet.  They have often been referred to as the ‘lungs of the earth’, a reference to the fact that they produce vast quantities of oxygen - which is essential for respiration for so many forms of life.  They also take up carbon dioxide and ‘fix’ it into complex organic molecules - from starches, to cellulose and lignin.  Thus, the carbon is locked away for months, years or even millennia.  The equatorial forests of Brazil and Sumatra are species rich, incredibly diverse, but deforestation and the expansion of agriculture are threats to many biodiverse, forested areas across the world. As so many forests and woodlands have been felled, there is now a movement to plant millions and millions of trees (across the world) in an attempt to mitigate climate change and in the UK to increase our percentage tree cover from a pretty low base.  Sadly, twentieth century forestry in the U.K was largely based on monocultures (for timber production). The trees planted were large stands or plantations of conifers - using Scots Pine, Larch and Spruce. These plantations not only lacked biodiversity, but were / are susceptible to wide scale pest infestation and extreme weather events.   Woodlands and forests that have a diverse range of tree species are not only healthier but show greater growth and carbon fixation. They are more resilient.  The diversity of trees ensures the each species accesses slightly different resources from the environment  - from soil minerals, water and light.  Diversity means that trees of the same species are less likely to be clustered together so pest and pathogen outbreaks are less common or less severe.  One area that has undergone an extensive and diverse planting regime is Norbury Park Estate (near Stafford).  Since 2009, over 100 different tree species have been planted, and the woodlands can now produce 1500 tonnes of new wood each year, and harvest 5000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air.  Not only can diverse woodlands / forests fix carbon, supply harvestable timber but they also offer areas for rest and relaxation. Whilst it is not possible to plant an 'instant' forest or woodland, it is possible to plant a range of tree and shrub species that will in time grow and mature to form a diverse and species-rich area.  As Charles Darwin said many years ago “more living beings can be supported on the same area the more they diverge in structure, habits, and constitution” [On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, 1859] Managing woodlands for wildlife - see here.   N.B.  Opens a PDF.    
Fires and climate change

Fires and climate change

by Chris, 17 July, 2018, 1 comments

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...

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