It used to be so easy: humans were different to all other animals, made in the image of god and given dominion over the world (at least in some cultures). Now we know we are not so different, because virtually everything we thought was unique to humans can be found in other animals to some… Continue reading If the trees could talk; would we want to hear what they were saying?
All kids have to put up with this sort of comment when aunts and uncles visit, but it is equally a common reaction from ecologists who study long-term changes in the tree layers of British woodland. During the first and then the second world war many of our broadleaved woods were cut-over, so most of… Continue reading Oh my, how you have grown!
Every year it catches me by surprise, just how lovely spring is, as Robert Browning so eloquently puts it in his ‘Home thoughts from abroad’. In the space of just a few weeks the woods are transformed. Whereas in March all the trees were bare and stark, suddenly half of them are greening up. Sycamore… Continue reading Oh to be in England, now that April’s there
It has been fashionable in conservation debates in recent years to talk of working at a ‘landscape-scale’ as promoted in the Lawton report. Approaches needed include, as in the example below: (a) improving the quality of habitat patches, for example by coppice restoration; (b) making existing sites bigger; (c) enhancing connectivity through a new woodland… Continue reading How does a ‘landscape’ work?
The River Roding flowed in the small valley below our house and in winter regularly came halfway up the fields, leaving behind, a week or so later, ribbons of dried hemlock and reed, old bottles, dead fish and bits of baler twine. Those childhood scenes came back to me in the last month as I… Continue reading Floodplain forest
Oak pollen is found from about 8-9,000 years ago at Wytham and oak has remained part of this mixed woodland through to modern times though never becoming very abundant (Hone et al., 2001). Then as now it was presumably pedunculate oak, the main species present today. After the Norman Conquest (1066) the Woods were part… Continue reading The once and future oaks in Wytham
The State of Europe’s Forests has just crossed my laptop (Forest Europe, 2020) and it seems an appropriate time to look at our woods and forest in this broader context. The paucity of our woodland cover (shared with some other parts of the Atlantic seaboard – western France, Ireland, Denmark) at 13% compared to a… Continue reading Our forests in a European context – the odd one out now
Put together the plant lists from the 164 permanent plots in Wytham Woods for the five occasions that the plots have been recorded since 1974 and there are 235 species. However just 12 of them provided 47% of all the species occurrences, they make up 82% of the recorded vegetation cover and 87% of the… Continue reading What are all these species doing?
Some kids at our primary school came from Collier Row: a name commemorating sturdy Essex pitmen perhaps? Hardly; while most people today think of a collier as a miner or deliverer of coal, the first definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is actually a ‘maker of charcoal’. Collier Row was on the edge of Hainault… Continue reading One day, there came that way, a sooty collier…
I started thinking about this because of two comments from recent conservation discussions. In the first planting was argued to be less desirable than natural regeneration because ‘unnaturally high densities’ of trees were being planted. In the second natural regeneration was being promoted as better than planting because the much higher numbers of seedlings produced… Continue reading Natural regeneration or planting – does it matter which produces a denser stand?