Managing our wildlife

The UK Squirrel Accord, the body that brings together many conservation organisations with the shared aim of protecting red squirrels and promoting the humane control of non-native greys, has launched a new website.

Feel free to head over and have a look – there are some great resources for land managers and volunteers, as well as links to some of the local groups:

https://squirrelaccord.uk/about/partners/

Source: UK Squirrel Accord. Red squirrel on feeder by Gary Bruce Highland Photographer

The Forestry Commission is also considering new options for taking forward deer management co-ordination and education across the country, a role that has been previously undertaken by the Deer Initiative – http://www.thedeerinitiative.co.uk/

The grant that has been successfully used to this point is due for renewal on the 31st March 2020, so the FC are looking for new and innovative ideas to take this important role forward. If you are any other organisation are interested in submitting a bid, please head to collaborative deer management grant on Gov.uk to find out more.

Farm Woodland Shelter Belts that clean our air.

Most of us are aware that trees capture and store carbon dioxide from the air, helping us to keep breathing and in the fight against climate change. What is possibly less well known is their ability to trap particulates and even other substances from the air around us. This principal has long been used in cities, with species such as London Plane (Platanus × acerifolia) being planted in avenues to help filter air pollution and keep lungs healthy as well as having a cooling effect in summer.

Plane York
London Plane being pollarded on York high street.

Farmers can also plant trees to mitigate the negative byproducts of intensive farming. Recent guidance from The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and Forest Research (FR) provides a calculator and information for farmers and land owners to ensure they utilise the properties of farm woodland planting for ammonia capture and sequestration. Woodland design and species choice plays an important part in how well the shelter will function as an air filter, and the guidance goes a long way to helping develop this.

Ammonia sequestration by woodland
https://www.farmtreestoair.ceh.ac.uk/sites/default/guidance/index.html

The guidance and calculator can be found using the links below:

https://www.farmtreestoair.ceh.ac.uk/

https://phys.org/news/2018-12-trees-mitigate-ammonia-emissions-farming.html

Forest Research uncover breeding Bark Beetle in Kent

As part of routine surveillance, plant health officers from the Forestry Commmission have discovered a breeding population of Ips typographus (eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle) in an unnamed woodland in Kent: the first such finding in the wider environment in the UK.

FC Press Release on Ips Typographus discovery

European spruce bark beetle
European spruce bark beetle – from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eight-toothed-european-spruce-bark-beetle-ips-typographus

Sawmills and commercial timber growers will be especially concerned, as large populations of these beetles can cause significant damage to softwood plantations; although they tend to attack already weakened or windblown trees as a preference. If populations reach a high enough level, they can cause stand level die back as large groups attack individuals or groups of trees and overwhelm their natural defences, as in the picture below.

Whole stand die back caused by bark beetles, California
Whole stand die back caused by another, similar bark beetle in California (possibly Hylastes spp.) – from https://e360.yale.edu/features/small-pests-big-problems-the-global-spread-of-bark-beetles

Movement controls and quarantine procedures have been put in place, while further intensive investigations are carried out. A Contingency Plan that was already in place due to the high risk posed by Ips typographus has been implemented.

Perhaps we should all be concerned, as there is a reasonable suggestion that tree death caused by bark beetles has played a large part in the devastating wild fires that have ravaged large parts of the western USA in recent years: How the bark beetle fueled California’s wildfires (Article) . This article from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies highlights the global scale of climate change increasing the speed of reproduction and brood size that can lead to huge infestations, sometimes killing whole forests as has been seen in continental Europe, the US and Canada: Small Pests, Big Problems: The Global Spread of Bark Beetles

Here we see an excellent, if worrying, example of how the knock on effects of climate change could be wide ranging and indirect; the direct impact on human lives of the huge and deadly forest fires could perhaps not have been predicted from the seemingly insignificant increase in breeding potential of a tiny bark beetle.

The European spruce bark beetle creates distinctive breeding galleries such as the one in the title image – a central channel with radiating galleries of increasing size. If you think you have spotted some of these symptoms / insects, please let the FC know by using their Tree Alert Form.

Panel recommend Dramatic increase in tree planting targets by 2020

An area of unproductive farm land earmarked for woodland creation, Northumberland.

This story will probably be buried by the ongoing Brexit coverage in the news, but a new report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has recommended a dramatic increase in tree planting targets if we are going to address global warming predictions:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/15/tree-planting-double-uk-climate-change

This will be welcome additional pressure on the government for environmentalists and foresters, but with the recommendation that up to 30% of grazing land could be planted it is likely there will be some push back from farmers and food groups who are concerned we don’t currently produce enough of our own food in the UK; especially with uncertainty over our relationship with the EU, where the greatest proportion of our food imports come from.

The suggestion that farms could make up the reduction in production by “being more efficient” would likely be rejected by most farmers, but I think most would accept that the reduction and indeed elimination of food waste is essential, with 1.9 million tons currently going in the bin every year in the UK alone. Some that I have spoken to have seen it almost as an insult that they should be paid so little by the supermarkets for a product they have worked hard to grow, only for it to be thrown away. https://fareshare.org.uk/what-we-do/hunger-food-waste/

Perhaps there is an answer in the field of Agroforestry, where trees are planted alongside livestock and crops to improve their yield, give increased drought tolerance and shelter in extreme weather events and against dessicating wind. More on this in future posts.

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