Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Save the Bastard Gumwood!

Much coverage of State of Nature, a wide-ranging new report on worrying declines in many of our wildlife species. On the radio this morning, they'd even wheeled out George Monbiot to advocate 'rewilding': we wicked humans should retreat from the land and leave it to Nature to restore it to a state of paradisal biodiversity. If only... There's been a good deal of (unplanned) 'rewilding' down my way, with good downland becoming overgrown with scrub, weed trees and invasive aliens, creating a near-sterile ecosystem of little or no use to most wildlife. Monbiot's remarks followed shortly after a report of how careful woodland management (by wicked humans) is helping to preserve the rare Pearl Bordered Fritillary - that's how it is done, not by allowing nature to create a sunless jungle.
  Thinking back over my own experience of wildlife in the semi-suburban patch I've known well for the past 50 years and more, I'd say that there has definitely been an overall loss in adundance and perhaps in the range of species. I'm not so sure about the latter because - to take a few examples - in my boyhood I would never have seen collared doves (then a rare vagrant) nor ring-necked parakeets (now noisily thriving), nor buzzards circling overhead (I'd only seen them in wild Wales). Jays and magpies were strictly country birds (and now they're everywhere) and woodpeckers were seldom seen. Herons were unheard-of, let alone kingfishers, cormorants and egrets, all of which I can see less than half a mile from my house. Even foxes - now fully urbanised - were then creatures of the countryside, as were the deer that are now becoming so abundant they're edging in on suburbia.
  On the butterfly front, of course, the overall picture is pretty dismal, and made more so by a run of cool, wet summers. But in my boyhood I would never have seen a speckled wood in the garden (now they're common) and would have counted myself  lucky to see an orange tip there, or a gatekeeper or even a meadow brown - and there are definitely more holly blues than there used to be. A few warm dry summers would improve the picture dramatically and reverse a lot of the decline.
  Meanwhile, you might be wondering why the Bastard Gumwood merits a mention in the State of Nature report - is it because St Helena is a UK Overseas Territory? Botanists from Kew, I gather, are out there desperately trying to get the sole surviving tree to pollinate itself. One wishes them luck, of course.  

4 comments:

  1. Rank specism...we've had "sky rats", "tree rats", and now, God help us, "Weed Trees"! Daring to flourish where Nig does not think they should...anyone want to live in the La-la Land of Nige's favourite species? Who'se for widespread forest butchery?

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