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Trees not tarmac in RIS2

Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Advisor for the Woodland Trust, writes about the alliance of 17 environmental groups proposing a fresh approach to the Government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2), suggesting a focus on improving existing roads and motorways rather than building new ones.

The reportRising to the challenge: a shared green vision for RIS2, has been co-ordinated by Campaign for Better Transport and calls for funding to be prioritised for a ‘green retrofit’ of the current road network ahead of the provision of new road capacity.  The Woodland Trust has contributed to the ‘safeguarding the environment’ section of the report, and Barnes says that the Trust is aware of 45 ancient woods directly threatened by road development across the UK.  He writes:

Following the publication of its first Road Investment Strategy, Highways England hired an external consultancy to create a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) to guide its future infrastructure development.  One of the key statements in this plan is to achieve “no net loss” and in time a “net gain” of biodiversity.  It is impossible to achieve net gain or even no net loss of biodiversity when ancient woodland is destroyed though, it is irreplaceable.  We need to see evidence of BAP delivery to appraise the progress of Highways England in more sensitive environmental mitigation, yet we have seen no evidence that this monitoring is even taking place as their reports are not being published.  Road building doesn’t have to be at the detriment of the natural environment; we have seen some evidence of forward thinking such as the Hindhead tunnel, this is the standard to which all other schemes should aspire.

Some of the examples of road infrastructure impacting ancient woods include:

  • A27 Arundel Bypass, Sussex – open for consultation until October, all three proposed bypass options will see destruction of ancient woodland.
  • Lower Thames Crossing, Kent/Essex – The preferred route of a second crossing will see impacts to two areas of woodland south of the Thames in Kent. Claylane Wood, which is ancient and another, Shorne Wood, which is SSSI-designated and partially ancient, records show it is home to, amongst other species, the ruddy darter dragonfly, marsh tit and hawfinch.
  • A21 dualling, Kent – nine hectares of ancient woodland was destroyed to dual a section of the road. Highways England claim it as a positive example of ‘translocation’ of ancient woodland soil, a measure for which there is no evidence of success, compounded by carrying it out at completely the wrong time of year contrary to promises at the public inquiry.
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California’s Forests Continue To Die

California’s record drought is officially over, but trees are still dying across the state because they were so badly weakened by years without water.  Click here to listen to (and read) a discussion on US public radio about these problems.

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Do you know your fungi?

The Woodland Trust has published a summary of the 9 most common UK fungi.  It begins:

Fungi are a huge and fascinating kingdom with over 15000 species in the UK.  They live on land, in the water, in the air, and even in and on plants and animals.  They vary widely in size and form, from the microscopically small to the largest organisms on Earth (at several square miles large).  Mushrooms (or toadstools) is a term given to the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies that certain fungi produce.  Here are nine common mushrooms that you may come across.

It then warns:

Please be aware that fungi can be deadly poisonous – don’t use this blog to identify them for culinary use.

For greater reassurance you might think Wild Food UK would be good, but even this says:

“If you are identifying mushrooms please use multiple sources of identification and never eat anything unless you are 100% sure what it is.  We will not be held responsible for the use of the information in this website.”

Which reminds us of the wise Swedish saying:

There are old mushroom eaters, bold mushroom eaters, but never old, bold mushroom eaters.

 

 

 

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Report on the effectiveness of Wildlife Corridors

The idea of a wildlife corridor to aid conservation (or at least slow extinctions)  is not new, but how effective are they?   The New York Times recently carried a report on a new paper [*] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which scientists have tried to quantify how a wildlife corridor strategy might be used to slow extinction rates in two biodiversity hot spots, the Atlantic Forest of Brazil and the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.

Clinton Jenkins, an ecologist at the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil and a co-author of the study, said:

“We’ve known for a while that fragmentation elevates extinction rates and that these corridors can help, but we wanted to take that data and figure out what we’d actually gain by putting these forests back together.”

The Times has more detail on this story.

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* Targeted habitat restoration can reduce extinction rates in fragmented forests.

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Larch disease at Castell Coch

Monday’s Times reported that Welsh environmental authorities have ordered 4,000 trees that are infected with larch disease to be felled around Castell Coch near Cardiff.

Phytophthora ramorum (larch tree disease) is a fungus-like pathogen that causes extensive damage and kills a wide range of trees and other plants.  Gareth Roberts, Local Area Manager from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said,

“We know that Forest Fawr is well loved by the community and we want to reassure people that we will do everything we can to minimise any disruption from these works.  Although it is some time off, we are already planning the harvesting in two phases, so we can always keep areas of the forest open for people to use, and so we can minimise the impact on protected species and the local wildlife.  It is upsetting that we have to remove the trees, but we know the forest will still be a wonderful place for people to visit in the future.  We will continue to work with local businesses and interest groups to keep them up to date as our plans progress, and during the harvesting work.”

Currently, there are no plans for a replanting programme as Natural Resources Wales [NRW] said that the work would encourage native species to regenerate:

“After the harvesting has taken place, NRW will encourage native species such as beech, oak, birch, wild cherry, rowan and hazel in the forest to naturally regenerate. NRW will monitor the regeneration in the forest over the following years before considering if any replanting is required.”

If this doesn’t produce the required species or density of trees, NRW says it will look at restocking the site.  Anna McMorrin, the Cardiff North MP, is leading a petition on Change.org demanding that the trees be replaced.

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An open invitation to regain a sense of awe

A new book from photographer Robert Llewellyn and scientist Joan Maloof encourages readers to study the forest, and not just look at it.  The Mother Nature Network has a review of the book by Angela Nelson.  She begins:

“You might think that after 50 years of photographing plants and trees, photographer Robert Llewellyn has seen it all in the great outdoors.  But when he talks about nature and spending time in the forest for his latest book, he does so with a youthful exuberance and a sense of awe.  … That sense of awe carries through in his newest work, “The Living Forest: A Visual Journey into the Heart of the Woods,” for which Llewellyn shot the photos.

The accompanying text was written by Joan Maloof, a scientist and founder of the Old-Growth Forest Network.  The essays and images aim to place the reader in the center of the woods, encouraging them to get immersed in the living ecosystems both large and small all around.”

There are some stunning pictures.

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Young People Getting to Know Local Woodlands

We are working with 10 secondary schools across the area and taking  young people with a range of physical and learning needs to visit a local woodland to learn about the woodland environment and acquire new skills. Funded by the Ernest Cook Trust activities have included improving paths for visitors, trying woodland crafts and perhaps best of all, toasting marshmallows.

This work (thanks to the Ernest Cook Trust) is part of our wider suite of ‘Woodland Wellbeing’ projects which are bringing the considerable benefits of woodland activities to a growing range of people in the Bristol area. To find out more about what we do, please email Nicola Ramsden at: wellbeing@forestofavontrust.org

Posted in: Latest News, Our Projects, Outdoor Learning, Woodland Wellbeing | Tagged , , |

Conservation 21

Natural England’s strategy to protect England’s nature and landscapes – “for people to enjoy and the ecosystem services they provide” – was published late last year, since when there does not seem to have been much comment on it.  You can download it here.

It says that the government’s ambition is for England to be a great place to live, with a healthy natural environment on land and at sea that benefits people and the economy.  The strategy sets out Natural England’s thinking about what we need to do differently and how we need to work with others, to better deliver this shared ambition.  The strategy’s 3 guiding principles are to:

  • create resilient landscapes and seas
  • put people at the heart of the environment
  • grow natural capital

Here’s an extract:

“Conservation 21 represents fundamental change in how our teams will be organised and what they will do. We already organise our local delivery work around the most important landscapes, or focus areas. We will set our objectives in these areas at a level and scale that enables and drives creativity and integration of our delivery work. We will use our regulatory levers more strategically, and therefore more sparingly at the site or scheme level. Our operational principles will mean we start from a position of trust in our partners. Our people will provide expertise and evidence, and rather than focus on enforcement, be skilled in working with partners, operating credibly at a senior level with business and planning sectors.”

The words forest, tree and wood are not mentioned.

 

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A tree city in China

The Independent recently reported the construction of one of the world’s first ‘forest cities’, designed by Stefano Boeri, who also designed two vertical skyscraper ‘forests’.  The city is currently under construction in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province.

Once completed, the new city will house some  30,000 people and will absorb almost 10,000 tons of CO2, 57 tons of pollutants per year and produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen.  The Independent says that the city will achieve all this thanks to roughly a million plants from over 100 species, as well as 40,000 trees being planted in facades over almost every surface imaginable.
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A world tree record

The Independent reported recently that volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours.  About 1.5 million people were involved in the campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh.  India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change.  Observers from Guinness World Records monitored Sunday’s plantation and are expected to confirm in the coming weeks that the effort set a new record.  The campaign was organised by the Madhya Pradesh government, with 24 districts of the Narmada river basin chosen as planting sites to increase the saplings’ chances of survival.  Volunteers planted more than 20 different species of trees.

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