I’ve just completed another free online course. I know, I’m a bit keen when it comes to learning. There are worse addictions I’m sure.
The course “Biodiversity and Global Change: Science and Action” is an offering from the University of Zurich on Coursera – an interesting overview of the biodiversity on planet Earth, the field of biodiversity science and some of the actions we can take to help protect biodiversity. As part of the final week of the course, I was challenged to be a Biodiversity Ambassador. What does that mean, and how did I tackle this assignment?
A Biodiversity Ambassador:
The idea behind this term is that biodiversity can’t speak for itself, so we need to speak on its behalf. A biodiversity ambassador is someone that chooses to speak up for biodiversity. While there are some very famous ambassadors for biodiversity (such as sir David Attenborough), anyone and everyone can make a difference by talking about biodiversity and raising awareness of biodiversity issues.
In order to be a biodiversity ambassador, it is important to learn about biodiversity (for example, take the Biodiversity and Global Change MOOC!), find a biodiversity issue or topic that you’re passionate about and take some positive steps as an ambassador. There are many different ways to be a biodiversity ambassador – just as there many different kinds of life on this planet, and a variety of threats to this biodiversity (and many different ways to help biodiversity too).
Module 8’s assignment challenged learners to make a video about a biodiversity issue of their choice. We were asked to speak about why this issue is important, and what we plan to do ourselves to make a difference. This will help to inform others about biodiversity issues, and it gives the audience examples of ways that they could get involved if they decide to make a difference.
Ancient & Veteran Trees:
I chose to talk about ancient trees (and other veterans) in my video as this is something I’m very interested in. I grew up next to Epping Forest, which has a staggering collection of veteran trees – over 50,000 – and over the years I have come to appreciate the biodiversity value of trees like these more and more.
This biodiversity is threatened due to a number of reasons; the fact that these trees are naturally a small part of the tree population, and are even rarer in the modern landscape, doesn’t help. Many old or damaged trees were removed to tidy up the landscape, or due to safety concerns, with little understanding of their value. Although there is much more awareness now of the enormous habitat value of ancient and veteran trees, they still have remarkably little legal protection.
It can be a challenge to keep the trees we have alive, as sometimes this requires very specialist knowledge and techniques. The “next generation” of ancients and veterans are also very rare, and this lack of continuity is a problem. Many unique and interesting species live on ancient and veteran trees, and if we are to ensure their survival we need to both keep our ancients alive and help other trees to reach this venerable state.
Ancient and veteran trees are not just valuable for the biodiversity that lives on, in and under them. They are worth valuing and conserving as they also have cultural and aesthetic value. They can add visual interest to the landscape, and link us back to the history of the landscape and of ourselves. If you’re interested in ancient and veteran trees, do check out the Ancient Tree Forum, and the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt. You can also check out The Tree Hunter (Rob McBride) for an example of how much difference one person can make in recording, campaigning and sharing knowledge about ancient and veteran trees!
What I plan to do:
- LEARN. While ancient and veteran trees have long been an interest of mine, there is still a lot to learn. I plan to keep increasing my knowledge in this area, and one way is through attending an Ancient Tree Forum course on veteran trees.
- SHARE. I’d like to share what I learn, so I will keep posting about this and other biodiversity topics on my blog. I also plan to make some more videos, as I enjoyed making the video for this assignment. (see the assignment video on youtube)
- RECORD. I’d like to get involved in recording ancient and veteran trees, as this will help to increase knowledge about what is out there and what needs to be protected. There are a few organisations that collect this information, for example there is The Ancient Tree Hunt (The Ancient Tree Forum and Woodland Trust) and The Tree Register of the British Isles.
- PROTECT. We can make a difference to the protection ancient and veteran trees get by taking part in campaigns and petitions. For example, on the Woodland Trust website there is a petition for a national tree register of ‘Very Important Trees’, and another to update planning policy to protect ancient woodlands. I’ll consider adding my support to campaigns that help protect biodiversity, and I hope you will too. You might also consider signing the Tree Charter for Trees, Woods and People at the Woodland Trust website.
Thanks to the creators of the Biodiversity and Global Change course for including such an interesting assignment.
Thanks for reading!