Monthly Archives: February 2016

Working in partnership with the Forestry Commission

Listen to Dr Tony Whitbread, Chair of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, argue for an enhanced remit for the Forestry Commission that will allow it to work with other interested groups to deliver wider benefits for the public.

His talk provides examples of how the Wildlife Trust has worked with the Commission to carry out a range of conservation projects, and to open up forests to the public.

The video is on the Woodland and Forestry section of the Wildlife Trusts website which also has stories about ash dieback and other tree-related issues.

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World Heritage forests burn in Australia

The Guardian carried a long article recently on the bush fires in Tasmania which are having a devastating effect on ancient forests.

Fires have broken out in parts of the Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania’s north-west.  Once these forests are burned, they take centuries to recover as fire and regeneration is not part of their natural cycle, unlike in some of the forests on the Australian mainland.

The article, which is an uncomfortable read, has a map showing the areas where problems have occurred.   This picture shows giant cushion plants in an ancient pencil pine forest in the Walls of Jerusalem national park.  Stands of these pines, which live up to 1,200 years and exist only in the island state, have recently been burned.

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Biochar and Ash Dieback

Sunday’s Countryfile programme on BBC1 carried an item about the use of biochar in fighting ash dieback.  Click here for a link to iPlayer.

There was also a feature article on this topic in last week’s Telegraph.

This is the essence of what the Telegraph reported:

“A newly developed “enriched biochar”, which combines a purified form of charcoal with fungi, seaweed and worm casts could help ash trees resist devastating ash dieback, according to research by tree and shrub care company Bartlett Tree Experts.  A study by the company’s research labs on 2,000 established ash trees over three years in Essex found that while a third of the established trees monitored have become infected with Chalara, none of the 20 trees which had enriched biochar applied to their roots were hit.”

Nick Atkinson, conservation adviser for the Woodland Trust is reported as saying:

“We would welcome further research to build on Dr Percival’s work, in particular to look at the effect of biochar soil amendments on mature trees, which play host to many species and cannot simply be replaced overnight.”



Posted in: Latest News, Safeguarding our Trees | Tagged |

Trees and climate change – advice from the RHS

The RHS website has a strong focus on trees.  A particularly interesting section looks at UK trees in the light of climate change.

It has a feature on practical considerations, such as drought, temperature, water logging, etc, and then a list of species that are more suitable for particular conditions.  There is also a link to the RHS plant selector website that allows you to identify particular circumstances that apply to you.  Although it doesn’t allow you to say something like, we live in the Forest of Avon, it still might be a source of good general advice.

One particular thing the RHS says is that climate change is a gradual process and so long-lived trees will encounter a different climate when mature.  As a result, hotter drier summers and wetter warmer winters will stress trees that are not well suited to current conditions.  However, it says, trees well chosen to match current conditions are likely to continue to survive under climate change.

This makes choosing carefully even more important.



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A brief history of our woods and trees

The Tree Charter website has an illustrated timeline of the trees and forests of Britain.  This runs from 9000 BCE to the present.

Details of the Charter, and its history, can be found here.  There is also an interactive map showing where it is represented round the country.  The Charter steering group is chaired by the Woodland Trust; this is its membership.




Posted in: Latest News, Safeguarding our Trees | Tagged |

Trees in Winter

The Field Studies Council [ FSC ] has a photographic guide to trees in winter.

Its website says:

Identifying trees in winter without their familiar leaves can apear a daunting challenge, but a closer look will reveal a multitude of slowly swelling buds.  A quick glance at the bud summary photos in this guide instantly reveals their sheer diversity.  Generally they are extremely varied, and often easy to learn and remember. When you consider the difference between types of bark, size of tree and habitat, identification starts to become much easier than it seemed at first.

The guide covers 36 of the UK’s common broad-leaved deciduous species, or groups of species as well as a few rarer trees.  It is one of a range of AIDGAP guides, aimed at non-specialist users age 16+.


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Planet Earth magazine

Planet Earth is a free magazine about the environmental sciences, and is aimed at the general public.  You can access it freely here, and subscribe here to have paper copies sent to you.

The magazine is a great source of up -to-date information and ideas, and the Winter 2015 edition (illustrated here) has features on ocean circulation, soils, and the future of flooding.

Of particular interest to the Forest of Avon are two articles on forests based on recent published papers.  These are about: 

  • Brazil’s successful efforts to slow deforestation which have saved thousands of lives by improving air quality – based on a paper in Nature Geoscience, and
  • How increased deforestation could cause droughts across the Amazon – based on a paper in Geophysical Research Letters

Back numbers of Planet Earth from 2010 are available on line.

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New report on outdoor learning

There’s a new report on outdoor learning in the UK drawn up by the Blagrave Trust, The Institute for Outdoor Learning, University College London, and Giving Evidence.

It’s title is: The Existing Evidence-Base about the Effectiveness of Outdoor Learning

Organisations, such as the Forest of Avon Trust, that get involved in activities that fall under the outdoor learning umbrella, will be interested in this report, but it may be a disappointing read for many as it does not paint an altogether positive picture of activity leading to effective learning – nor of the effectiveness of the research and evaluation studies that are routinely carried out by those involved in outdoor learning.

This is how the short ‘conclusion’ section ends [for some reason it starts with point No. 6].

We recommend:

6. Types and volume of activity: Pulling together the various data sources on this to give the current picture, and creating a system to regularly capture data on the types and volumes of activity.

7. Improving practitioners’ theories of change: both enabling them to create them, and to use them.

8. Convening practitioners, researchers and others to prioritise research topics.

9. Managing the resulting sector-wide research agenda, through relationships with funders, and possibly creating partnerships between practitioners and researchers.

10. Ensuring that both interventions and research are described clearly, fully and publicly.

Posted in: Latest News, Outdoor Learning | Tagged |

How big are the UK’s forests?

According to the World Bank, the area of the UK under forest is now 28,954 square kilometres [ ~2.9m ha ].  This has risen from around 26,000 in 1990.  Encouragingly, there is also a growth of afforestation of 0.31%, although this has slowed down compared to the 1990s.

The total area of the UK is approximately 243,610 square kilometres, which means that about 12% is forest, although this is not evenly distributed across the country.  Scotland has about twice the forest density of England and Northern Ireland, with Wales having 1.5 times as much.  Despite the heroic efforts of the Forest of Avon Trust, and bodies like it, England’s not going to be catching up any time soon.

But what’s a forest, and what doesn’t count?  This is what the World Bank says:

“Forest area is land under natural or planted stands of trees of at least 5 meters in situ, whether productive or not, and excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems (for example, in fruit plantations and agroforestry systems) and trees in urban parks and gardens.”

This means that there is probably a much higher area of land covered in trees than the Bank’s statistics would suggest.


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