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Wild, Natural, Boring?
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OtleyLad



Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2737
Location: Otley, West Yorkshire
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 11:13 am    Post subject: Wild, Natural, Boring?  Reply with quote    

I'm not quite sure what we are talking about when we use the word 'wild' to describe a particular ecosystem worthy of preservation or as something to aim for.

There's virtually nowhere in the UK that has been untouched by human activity so what is the 'control' model.
Examples being so-called ancient woodland: "woodland that has existed continuously since 1600 or before" (from Wikipedia). Does this mean its 'natural' or automatically worthy of preservation?

I'm hugely sceptical of nature 'reserves' too. Who decides what is allowed to grow within them and why? Shouldn't we just fence them off and let 'nature' decide what happens within?

Personally I prefer landscapes with as little urban developemnt as possible - but thats just me - I know quite a few people who regard such places as 'empty' or boring (where's the shops?).

Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

You are right, there is little true natural habitat in the UK but of the various habitats that exist many are threatened.
In fact IMHO they are all threatened, apart from the ones that make money.
If all land was left to rewild then there would be nothing but mixed, oak predominant woodland.
As beautiful & biodiverse as that is there are also other habitats, like Robs Ings & my lowland heath that are worthy of protection even if they where man made centuries or even millennia ago.
Many rare & endangered species have adapted to live on these habitats & it would be a great loss if they went.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 1:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Wild, Natural, Boring? Reply with quote    

OtleyLad wrote:
I'm hugely sceptical of nature 'reserves' too. Who decides what is allowed to grow within them and why? Shouldn't we just fence them off and let 'nature' decide what happens within.


No, you can't reverse man made landscape by just leaving them, as they still have the influence of what man did hanging over them. You are choosing to leave them at a given point in time, not restoring them to how they were before man took over. To do this you would need to not fence them off, reverse any drainage improvements and give them significant amounts of time to recover.

Re-wilding is human management, just a different kind. We can't reverse the extinctions that have happened in the interim and just leaving it doesn't necessarily improve biodiversity, as the species that have survived have done so alongside human activity and many of them now depend upon it.

Here are some ings land that have just been fenced off and left (hopefully we're going to be able to graze them in the next week or so). The drainage ditches help drain them, but only to a degree as they don't have land drains in and the drains are mainly there to take water off the surrounding arable land.

Instead of building peat, because the land has been left ungrazed, growth has actually slowed down. The coverage of tall, rough grasses and vegetation first of all blocks out light to ground level. Then the vegetation isn't cut so it dies off and oxidises where it stands rather than being accumulated into soil carbon. Then the next year there is less active growth, because the light is blocked out, and less carbon is taken from the air by the plants

Last edited by Rob R on Mon Nov 23, 15 2:45 pm; edited 1 time in total

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Perhaps you should come along and take a look at the variety of habitats that National Nature Reserves protect, or maybe this leaflet will help.

We have everything from MG4 grasslands, through lowland heath to alder carr woodland here in the valley. In the wider Yorkshire area there are the moors at Crowle/Thorne/Goole, though they've been greatly reduced by arable farming all around but they are still a huge expanse that you wouldn't want to cross.

OtleyLad



Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2737
Location: Otley, West Yorkshire
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

This is what I mean Rob. You can't roll back the clock - wherever the land is, unless its an island thats never had human occupation, its going to be affected by what we have done on it and are presently doing around it.

But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Increasing biodiversity means broadening the number and variety of different species, plants and animals, present.

That doesn't necessarily mean encouraging everything as you can grow a sea of thistles anywhere, so why tollerate them in a nature reserve,? That's not to say you have to remove them by any means possible, but neither is it a beneficial use of resources to encourage them.

If left to their own devices introduced invasive species, such as himalayan balsam, would take over our native species and push them out.

Last edited by Rob R on Mon Nov 23, 15 6:46 pm; edited 2 times in total

Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

hopefully the species that are allowed to flourish will be the ones most threatened. If a species is doing well it's usually because its required habitat is abundant, or it's adapted to a variety of habitats so does not require protection.
Some species have co evolved or really just adapted to live in a certain habitat & forgotten how to survive in their original one.
If that habitat is threatened the species becomes threatened as well & requires protection.

Nick



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 33978
Location: Hereford
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

OtleyLad wrote:
This is what I mean Rob. You can't roll back the clock - wherever the land is, unless its an island thats never had human occupation, its going to be affected by what we have done on it and are presently doing around it.

But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.


In the same way as foxes, eagles, badgers, bigger fish and parasitic worms control other species' numbers?

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 15 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

There's some great footage of 'our' local nature reserve in this video, which also shows that nature isn't natural - there's a lot of hard work involved.

Shane



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 3106
Location: Doha. Is hot.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 15 3:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

It's something I raised a while back in this thread:

Quote:
That's the funny thing about conservationists - they all seem to want to reset the British countryside back to how it was in the 1950s before modern industrial farming had really started to reshape the way we manage the land in Britain. But why choose this as your arbitrary reference point for what natural Britain looked like before we messed it all up? Why not take things back to before the Industrial Revolution and the massive expansion of the canal and rail systems and declare that as a fit starting point? Or 5000 years or so ago, before our Iron Age ancestors (or whoever it was) started mass deforestation?

Conservation is essentially about preserving a snapshot in time, but who determines which time frame to pick, and what is the ultimate aim?

It's an interesting debate, and I'm not sure where my final opinion will lie with this one as there are so many valid viewpoints.

OtleyLad



Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2737
Location: Otley, West Yorkshire
PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 15 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Rob R wrote:
Increasing biodiversity means broadening the number and variety of different species, plants and animals, present.


I know that Rob - but in nature reserves we always choose which species will be allowed to increase and which will be excluded.

Nick wrote:
OtleyLad wrote:

But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.


In the same way as foxes, eagles, badgers, bigger fish and parasitic worms control other species' numbers?


Except the above control them by eating, etc. Generally that is not our motivation.

Shane wrote:

Conservation is essentially about preserving a snapshot in time, but who determines which time frame to pick, and what is the ultimate aim?
It's an interesting debate, and I'm not sure where my final opinion will lie with this one as there are so many valid viewpoints.


Shane has it in a nutshell. Just what is the aim and on what premise is it based?

Perhaps nature reserves should be renamed to something more appropriate like 'Botanic Museums'.

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 10483

PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 15 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

We have to decide which time we want, and that is artificial, but can be useful. In our woods we manage habitat and not for species. Our idea is that if you manage the habitat knowing some of the species that are present and what the habitat used to be, there is a good chance of the species survival and increase.

We have a mixture of hardwood plantation and seriously overstood hazel with standards and hazel and ash coppice. The coppice hasn't been properly managed for about 40 years. We are restoring the coppice about an acre at a time, but thinning the plantation with a view to bringing it into continuous cover woodland. We also have some areas that we will leave completely unmanaged to see what they do.

To give some idea of the difference in biodiversity, I did a flora survey in on coup this summer. We found 70 species of plant (including trees and shrubs). I am fairly sure we missed some plants as we didn't find the twayblade that I know were there the previous year. Before we cut this it was virtually wall to wall wild garlic with the odd bluebell and early purple orchid.

We know we have dormice in the wood, and this work should improve things for them, and the bats which we know forage up the lane as it increases the flowers, berries and insects. Because we now have coppice at the right stage we have also had a return of nightingales.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 15 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

OtleyLad wrote:
Rob R wrote:
Increasing biodiversity means broadening the number and variety of different species, plants and animals, present.


I know that Rob - but in nature reserves we always choose which species will be allowed to increase and which will be excluded.


So what is it that you're asking? There is motivation in everything we do, be that active management of nature or total neglect. There is a clear advantage to management, but I'm unaware of the advantage of your fence it off & leave it approach. It makes no difference what you call it (although a museum maintains items as they are now while a reserve is always in flux, never static & always adapting to external forces.

Nick



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 33978
Location: Hereford
PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 15 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

OtleyLad wrote:

Nick wrote:
OtleyLad wrote:

But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.


In the same way as foxes, eagles, badgers, bigger fish and parasitic worms control other species' numbers?


Except the above control them by eating, etc. Generally that is not our motivation.


So?

OtleyLad



Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2737
Location: Otley, West Yorkshire
PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 15 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Mistress Rose wrote:
We have to decide which time we want, and that is artificial, but can be useful. ... if you manage the habitat knowing some of the species that are present and what the habitat used to be, there is a good chance of the species survival and increase.


This is the truth of it. We decide - so its not a 'nature' reserve at all.

I'm not against preserving different habitats at all. Just that perhaps we should be more specific about what we are preserving.

Here in Wharfedale most of the high ground is 'moorland' - heather/whinberry/bracken on thin acidic soil/peat. Left to its own devices it would resort to woodland. The lack of trees means you get lots of big views when you're up there but its pretty barren really.
The moors have been managed (mostly for grouse shooting) for a long time so most people view them as 'natural' and don't want them changed (and the peaty runnoff pollutes the water). Shame as they could be a lot more productive and support more wildlife if people were more flexible about how they are managed.

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