Happy Earth Day! I guess it’s a day when we celebrate this planet that we live on, all that it provides, and the diversity of life that can be found on it (and no where else in the universe, so far)!
Apart from revelling in the cuteness of the animals and the awesomeness of Google in general, maybe take some time to calculate your footprint and see your impact on this Earth?
Even with going veg most of the time, cycling/walking/taking public transport to get around, recycling most of my waste, buying minimal things, the fact that I travel a fair bit jacks up my footprint Can someone come up with an environmentally-friendly way of flying already?
Last Fri (17 April), I went for a nice walk in the woods with the Cambridge Conservation Forum (which I am, or was, student rep for). We went to Hayley Wood, as they do every year, to see the results of their coppicing work done in Nov last year. Coppicing is a way of managing woodlands, in the past for firewood and other wood products, but now mainly to encourage regrowth and allow light to reach the floor (they still do sell firewood and stuff).
Hayley Wood is famous for its oxlips (Primula elatior), and for 1B Ecology (2nd year module) we did come here to count oxlips with the 1B plant scientists. They’re apparently the first flowers to bloom, along with lesser celandines (Ranunculus ficaria), carpeting the floor with yellow, followed by the bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), and then the purple bugels (Ajuga repens). The wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is also an early spring flower. I wondered if the flower anemone was named after the sea one, or vice versa, and it turns out the sea anemone was named after the flower (according to Wiki anyway).
Oliver Rackham, known as the father of British woodlands, was supposed to lead this walk, but had passed away earlier in March this year, and so the walk was held in memory of him. His first book was apparently on Hayley Wood, but he was perhaps most famous for The History of the Countryside (1986).
I think vegetation is cool and plants are really important, especially cos they often define the habitat, but I definitely chose zoology for a reason. In contrast to our tropical forests back home, there really was nothing much but flowers, plants and trees to look at here. Butterflies, beetles and other critters weren’t out yet. Still though, the flowers are pretty and it’s interesting to know which species are ancient woodland indicators. Apparently Hayley Wood was first managed to supply firewood to the Bishop of Ely (might have been the founder of Peterhouse if it was early enough!), but was confiscated in the 16th century.
I learnt the difference between a forest and a woodland as well. A forest is often planted by the Forestry Commission and clear-felled for timber, or historically it was meant as a hunting ground (so apparently you could have a forest with no trees), while a woodland is what it says on the tin.
Apparently having a mixed oak and ash woodland is a result of human management, cos naturally the ash would have crowded out the oak, which is a sun-loving plant.
Hayley Wood is managed to keep out deer, which prevents regrowth, so some parts of it is fenced. But muntjacs, a non-native invasive species, is small enough to squeeze through gaps and stuff, but that bend apparently is too difficult for them to negotiate, while badgers can still get through.
That made for a pretty nice break from the stats modelling troubles I’ve been having with my project (: