December 2011 Archives
Trees Are Not Just For Christmas
One of the favourites of the festive season is the Christmas tree. Whether majestic municipals or delightful domestics we wouldn't be without them. The down side is that when the fun is over most of them are consigned to the chipper in January.
Thank goodness then for organisations like Birmingham Trees for Life. It is the latest in an honourable line of tree-planting bodies in Birmingham, and is doing sterling work making sure that we plant and nurture many more trees in the City. Earlier this month they launched their 'Big Tree Plant' programme. This follows a successful bid to the Government's national tree planting campaign which has resulted in a first year grant of just over £25,000 being awarded. The Big Tree Plant is part of the Government's 'Big Society' initiative, which aims to encourage the involvement of local people in issues and activities in their own communities.
The programme was launched by the Lord Mayor and the event was hosted by the Birmingham Civic Society. (Birmingham Trees for Life is a partnership between the City Council and the Birmingham Civic Society - all trees are planted on public land owned and managed by the Council.)
David Clarke, Chairman of the Birmingham Civic Society, said "We are absolutely delighted to have been selected in the first wave of projects by the Big Tree Plant, and this grant will enable Birmingham Trees for Life to extend its tree planting to even more areas of the city, particularly those with less tree coverage".
A key factor in obtaining the funding was the organisation's excellent track record in this field. Since it was created in 2006, Birmingham Trees for Life has planted almost 15,000 trees all over the city, involving hundreds of local volunteers, school children and business people. The aim now is to plant new trees in every constituency area. To complete all that is planned some matching funds will need to be secured from the City Council and local businesses and individuals. Success will ensure that Birmingham will retain its well-deserved reputation for the abundance and variety of trees in its streets, parks and open spaces. This will be good for people and good for wildlife.
So, enjoy your Christmas tree, but remember that the world in general, and Birmingham in particular, needs trees. You can help to make sure that more are planted and cared for in your neighbourhood. You can even sponsor a tree through the 'Plant a Tree for Life' scheme - for more information go to the website www.btfl.org.uk .
In the meantime have a merry Christmas and enjoy the Christmas trees.
Artificial light is everywhere all the time in our towns and cities, and is increasingly intrusive in the countryside. We don't give it much thought, except, ironically when it is not there. It is though very different for wildlife: the impact of so much light when the world should be dark is considerable. From robins who sing all night instead of resting, to insects being snapped up by bats who have learnt to hunt around lights, and moths fluttering around windows, light pollution affects behaviour and increases risks.
I remember some years ago appearing at a public enquiry into whether or not a business park should be built somewhere in Warwickshire. In the middle of someone's evidence the lawyer I was with suddenly hissed 'What effect does 24 hour lighting have on wildlife?' I was at a loss to give him anything more than a general answer.
I also recall visiting a new town development in Florida which was designed to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. One of its features was 'dark skies' street lighting. This consisted of fairly standard lights fitted with large shades which ensured that whilst the street below was well lit none of the light escaped upwards or to the sides. Not wholly effective because of course the roads and cars reflected some light, but better than nothing.
Help is now at hand for hapless conservationists needing to answer the lawyer's question. Earlier this year Buglife (the Invertebrate Conservation Trust) published a report (A Review of the Impact of Artificial Light on Invertebrates) on the impacts of light on insects. Some of the issues raised may be surprising. Street lighting is an obvious problem, but how about solar panels and plastic sheeting? Their surfaces polarise light (that is break it into its different components, as with a rainbow). For most of the planet's history only water surfaces did this and many creatures evolved to respond accordingly. Now many insects lay their eggs on and around these artificial surfaces because they are fooled into treating them as if they are water.
The Review suggests a number of things which might help: switching off external lights in the middle of the night, avoiding the use of ultra-violet emitting light bulbs, taking more account of sensitive areas close to nature reserves and ponds, and doing more to provide dark skies locations. The most obvious 'Lighting should be kept to a functional minimum in all areas' should be both easy and welcome - after all every light that is shining is costing somebody money.
The full report is available to download from Buglife's website (www.buglife.org.uk). Follow the links to News and News Archive.