On Monday (16th October) I travelled over the river to attend a CMA study day in the South East region. The setting was an unusual one, based at Bluewater Shopping centre in Kent, and it promised to be a really interesting day looking at how the “environmental asset” of the site is managed to enhance biodiversity.
The aim at Bluewater is to balance needs of the wildlife and the expectations of guests to access the habitats for recreation. We started off the day with an introduction to the site, its history and its wildlife. Phil Bolton of Wildthing wildlife consultants explained how the Biodiversity Management Strategy is used to manage and enhance the biodiversity of the site. This system was a factor in the shopping centre winning a Green Apple Environment Award in 2009, and the site has also won the Green Flag award in 2016 and 2017.
Formed in 1966 the CMA is the largest organisation supporting the work of conservation, access and recreation professionals in the natural greenspace and countryside sector throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A veteran tree is hard to define; generally speaking it is a tree with great value due to its life history – this often includes old-age characteristics, but the tree itself may not be ancient.
This is the most commonly accepted definition nowadays: a veteran tree is a tree which has markedly ancient characteristics, irrespective of chronological age. The term ancient is applied specifically to trees that are ancient in years (Lonsdale, 2014 – VETree website).
We have a fantastic collection of veteran and other ancient trees in the UK. Veteran trees are still scarce in the landscape however. Many of the species that live on veteran trees, such as dead wood specialist (saproxylic) beetles, are rare themselves and vulnerable to extinction – locally or completely.
Violet Click Beetle – “Found only in the heart of decayed ancient trees” (wikipedia)
When managing for veteran trees, we should consider carefully whether work on the tree itself is necessary (it might pose a risk to the life of the tree, and can also be expensive and dangerous work). We should think about the management of the land around veteran trees too. This could mean looking to the surrounding trees that might shade a veteran tree out now or in the future, or considering the rooting zone and either instating a root protection area or increasing the area that is protected.
If you are interested in veteran trees, there is a lot of information on the Ancient Tree Forum website or you could consider attending a course on Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees.
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?