Tag Archives: Woodland

Valuing and managing Veteran Trees: learning outcomes

I wanted to sum up some of the takeaway messages from the course I attended with the Ancient Tree Forum – Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees: an advanced course for trainers.

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.

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Forests and Humans MOOC

I recently completed the course “Forests and Humans: From the Midwest to Madagascar“, a free online course from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This ran from September 30th til October 28th, on the coursera.org website.

I’ve taken a number of online courses before‎, using the coursera platform. This offering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison was shorter in duration than some (running over four weeks), but was packed full of information including video lectures, interviews, scientific journals and more. Whilst no stranger to forests – I already had a grounding in the subject through my undergraduate degree and my work as a Ranger – the course added a lot to my knowledge. It gave a global context for forests, covering forest ecosystems around the world in the first week. It then delved into the value of forests to humans, our effects on forests, threats to forest habitats and biodiversity, and some of the possible solutions for preserving forests into the future.

Each week of the course (a “module”) included activities, and I thought this element worked really well. For example, Week 4 had us watching a video, and reading, about protecting forests for carbon offsetting, then posting our views in the discussion forums on using forests and owning carbon. Each week also included a quiz, which one needs to pass at 75% or higher to get a Statement of Accomplishment at the end of the course. Although this course was shorter than some of the others I have undertaken, the quizes were rigorous and had me wracking my brain on a number of occasions. I took this as a good thing, because testing is a useful part of learning and actually improves our recall and understanding of a topic. With two attempts allowed on each quiz, if you take the time to work through all parts of the module (and perhaps revisit some of the harder parts in between attempts), it is still very possible to get a passing score on the quizes.‎ I have a Statement of Accomplishment to prove it!

Overall, I really enjoyed this course. It was a great opportunity to expand on my knowledge of forests, putting my work in UK forests into a global context. I also got to talk to people in other parts of the world, and learn from them about their forests and the threats and conservation efforts therein. I think the course could be improved by developing on this aspect; perhaps some of the activities could involve working collaboratively with a peer.