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You are here > Science & Nature message boards > Deleted > if you owned a wildlife park

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if you owned a wildlife park

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Message 21 - posted by grebelet (U12047257) , Nov 3, 2009

komodo dragons!

lots of reptiles.

there'd be an area for children to play in, that would keep the food bills down

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Message 22 - posted by Nic Davies (U13674697) , Nov 3, 2009

Heaven forbid! Imagine a midge the size of, well, just about anything else, especially if their bite was magnified to the same extent. Of such stuff nightmares are made.

The wee beasties are food for lots of other critters though so this is their saving grace. Lots of bats are testament to that.

By the way (BTW), did you know that 'sassenachs' is actually the word for 'lowlanders', so can also be applied to other Scots as well as the English. Didn't know that til recently.

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Message 23 - posted by brighttwitchytitch (U14200615) , Nov 5, 2009

We get midges down south too living on a marshland with plenty of water around. You should see our local reserve some days but then plenty of hirundine food.

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Message 24 - posted by Jeannie (U14167325) , Nov 5, 2009

I think you'll find that Paul Lister is trying to do just that. He was in the news rather a lot last year, because he inherited a large area in Sutherland and wanted to 're-wild' it. He was talking about re-introducing wild boar, European elk, lynx, wolves, bear and several other once native British species. The main problem he had was that to keep any of these animals would mean he had to enclose the land in such a way that none could escape - and this was a mammoth (excuse the pun) task, plus it would then be classed as a zoo and not a 're-wilding'. He has got the boar and elk so far. I've included some relative links.
It is a very interesting idea and I think he has carried out a well-researched plan of re-planting native flora (which is sadly missing in the highlands). One of the main objections raised was that fencing the whole area wouldn't comply with the new access legislation. I have to say I didn't immediatley think of that - I wondered how the wolves would go down with local farmers and residents. Still, I admire him for his massive re-planting scheme and his love of the natural world.

www.alladale.com/wil...

www.timesonline.co.u...

www.northern-times.c...

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Message 25 - posted by theSteB (U13982963) , Nov 5, 2009

My fantasy if I won a huge amount of money or whatever has always been the same. I would buy up a large area of land, preferrably with some natural lakes in it. The sort of part woodland, part agricultual land common to much of our country. Then I would use as little, or no management at all on it. One of my personal pet hates is the overmanagement of many nature reserves. This would be a truly nature left to itself reserve. Nature could do whatever it wanted, because it has far more insight into how to manage a complex ecosystem than I ever could. The only species I would introduce were ones that are natural to that habitat, are native and would once of occurred there.

One thing that always puzzles me is why the no management at all approach has been little used. I believe there is one area of woodland and little bits get left. You always hear people saying if hill farmers went out of business that areas like the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales would be changed for ever - they would become overgrown with scrub and woodland. It baffles me that at least one big hill or mountain in the UK has not been closed off to sheep grazing with the aim of letting it revert to its former tree covered state. You'd have thought at least it could have been tried with one. I think we are a bit to obsessed with control, even conservationists.

Then you hear about a big trust or other conservation body that decides not to try and buy an important piece of habitat that is for sale, because it couldn't afford to manage it. So it is lost to conservation and goes to someone who wants to exploit it to make money. We have this odd idea that if we don't interfere and manage everything that it will become worthless for wildlife. I just don't know how all that wildlife managed to survive for so long before humans came along and showed nature how to do it properly [not].

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Message 26 - posted by Jeannie (U14167325) , Nov 5, 2009

Another top posting theSteB, your discussions are really worth reading. I was under the impression that management of reserves or other similar sites was to encourage diversity. I think the reasoning behind this is that once natural grazing used to take place on a huge scale, before man started to settle in one place and our populations really expanded. When you think of the size of grazing animals, until relatively recently, this seems a good explaination. I'm thinking of those giant deer and animals like aurochs for example. If an area was left unmanaged there would be a succession of dominant vegetation types, with what's known as a 'Climax Woodland' as the final type of habitat, which should have a diverse range of flora and fauna. Perhaps these areas are managed in relation to many peoples' impatience to see a wide species range - as the full succession from a few grasses through to climax woodland would take longer than one human lifetime. Do you think this sounds reasonable?

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Message 27 - posted by Nic Davies (U13674697) , Nov 5, 2009

Couldn't agree more theSteB. I am SICK and TIRED of hearing the, "If we just left it, it would turn to scrub" argument.

Funny how rarely any interviewer then asks a supplementary question, like, "And after scrub, what does it become then?"

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Message 28 - posted by boardsurfing (U14161125) , Nov 5, 2009

There is a small woodland not far from my house ,it gets badly vandalised ,I would love to own it and restore it to its natural beauty,it has so much wildlife in it despite the vandalism.

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Message 29 - posted by Jeannie (U14167325) , Nov 5, 2009

To nickdavies, I live in Scotland and have never been bothered by midges, however, on a holiday to Somerset a couple of years ago I was the evening meal for some bloodsucker (or a thousand). I wonder if I'm resistant to the Scottish midge (if there is such a thing). The Avalon Marshes Reserve was, otherwise, a real treat and I would recommend a visit. Wear long socks and tuck your trousers in though! Or use insect repellant around the lower leg area.

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Message 30 - posted by diapensia (U13926430) , Nov 5, 2009

Exclosures(to keep animals out) have been tried on reserves in the highlands. Inside the exclosures the rank vegetation out-competes the smaller alpine species.

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Message 31 - posted by Nic Davies (U13674697) , Nov 5, 2009

Hi mST (hope you don't mind the abbreviation).

I'd never been bothered by anything like the midge before I came to Scotland so I'm not sure how these different groups or species of bloodsuckers divide up around the country. Having said this, they don't seem to be as bad on Mull as other places I've been to on the mainland.

It's interesting that you feel you might be immune to the Scottish midge but that you were clearly attractive to their West Country cousins.

It never fails to amaze me that no-one has yet come up with anything resembling being effective against the Scottish midge. There are loads of devices and potions out there that claim success, but not one seems to work for anything other than a minority.

It's probably down to one's own body chemistry.

You'll be aware of the apparent (and inadvertant)usefulness of Avon's Skin-so-Soft (Woodland Fresh only) in repelling midges (it works for me to SOME extent) but far from smelling like fresh woodland, it reminds me more of how my granny used to smell. Not sure which is worse, the midge or the memory!

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Message 32 - posted by theSteB (U13982963) , Nov 5, 2009

Hi mightySilverTray

Seral succession stages and Climax Vegetation are not quite as straight forward as Frederic Clements' theories often make out. Whilst there are definite stages it is thought that the end point climax vegetation is not as fixed as Clements theories imply.

I certainly wasn't proposing the ideas of no management everywhere and it was just for some sites. Whilst short grazed swards are important habitat for some species many other species benefit from more closed cover. It would be an interesting experiment if some reasonably large areas were left unmanaged just to see what did happen. This is what surprises me about why it hasn't really been tried.

One puzzle about our past vegetation is what the forest cover was really like before the first Neolithic farmers cut down the wildwood. If it was wall to wall woodland as many accounts imply this leads to the question as to where the species survived that needed this careful management and protection from encroaching scrub. There would have been Heathland on some bits of coast. However, it is not clear as to what type of open habitats occurred inland. If there were no big tracts of chalk/limestone grassland and no inland Heaths, how did the specialists that need this type of habitat survive before the arrival of these man made habitats?

In case anyone is wondering it is thought that our Heathland developed after woodland was cut down by early farmers and the soil became exhausted - it is called plagioclimax vegetation - meaning an arrested vegetation stage that does not go onto climax woodland due to the podsolized soils.

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Message 33 - posted by Jeannie (U14167325) , Nov 6, 2009

Hi theSteb, thank you for your thoughts on management of habitats. I agree that Clementís original theories on succession are somewhat simplistic, but it also quite difficult to support or reject his hypothesis/es because, as you pointed out, there is a lack of significantly large areas of totally unmanaged habitats to study throughout successive changes.

To answer your question about pre-Neolithic forest cover: Pollen analyses from the last glacial maximum (approx 21000 years ago) to the mid Holocene (approx 8000-5000 years ago) especially in Europe, do support successional models with eventual climax communities of mature and stable wooded vegetation. The records show that following the LGM even through to around 10000 years ago Europe was much more barren of vegetation than previously thought and arboreal taxa in Britain for this period are lacking or at very low abundance.
The pioneer vegetation, mosses & lichens, on to the grasses, herbs and shrubs are represented in the pollen records in classic successional patterns, with variations depending on regional abiotic conditions. By 8000 years ago there are pollen indicators of greater coverage by birch and pine, with later additional development of alder, oak, elm, lime and hazel. Pollen evidence from around Europe shows that agricultural impact on the vegetation almost everywhere was negligible until after 4,000 years ago.

With regard to deflected succession, or a plagioclimax, which does not result in the establishment of a traditional model (for want of a better term) is of course another example of the ultimate effects of management. Again, I totally agree with your enquiry as to why we canít leave such areas completely to their natural processes Ė what an amazing long-term study that would be. Iím sure I have seen reports of major ecological investigations into succession (I use the term in a quite general way here) following the Mount St Helens eruption. I will have to enquire about that.

It seems to me that the reason why organisations manage nature reserves is because the reserves are usually designated to protect a particular species, assemblage of species, or specific habitats. I suppose then, that if left in isolation and to natural processes, such as succession, the resulting changes in habitat may mean the loss of particular species for which the reserve was originally designated. Iím not saying I agree with this principle, but there should be room for a variety of reserves with a range of levels of management.
If we move back to before the increase in the human population and widespread removal or management of the landscape, an area of a particular habitat might be lost through succession, perhaps affected by climatic changes Ė for example wetlands did dry out and undergo primary and secondary succession of a different community of vegetation, but there were always other wetland habitats at earlier stages of the succession process elsewhere, which acted as species reservoirs. Because we have drastically reduced the amount of natural habitat occurring world-wide, these natural changes are limited to the extreme, so I suppose decisions are made to halt succession at particular stages, depending on the initial proposals for a reserve. There are many examples of such management, e.g. heathland management. Here is a link to one. www.norfolkwildlifet...
At Hoe Rough in Norfolk, the gorse and birch are kept under control as the heathland would quickly be Ďlostí on their progression. Because natural heathland is so rare it is not likely to be able develop normally, due to human interference. How bizarre is that!
One of the major reasons for managing reserves for particular species, assemblage of species, or specific habitats, is one we havenít considered in this discussion Ė itís the way conservation methods are funded. Specific criteria have to be met to obtain any sort of funding and these are mainly based on quite narrowly defined species and habitat protection. Voluntary contributions and public pressure also have an impact on funding. Here we go again with the giant panda vs the bamboo forests!
The funding situation is a big chicken and egg perhaps?

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Message 34 - posted by theSteB (U13982963) , Nov 6, 2009

Hi mightySilveryTay

I have actually formally studied vegetation ecology, palynology and quaternary ecology so I am quite familiar with what you refer to. Also and probably more significantly I have always been fascinated by what our country looked like in times past, especially before the first widespread felling of the wildwood. This has lead me to doing a lot more reading and thinking about this than is healthy.

Whilst I feel that there is a fairly good general picture of our vegetational history I still think it is incomplete and some accounts are rather contradictory. For instance as you are probably well aware, the climate/vegetation reconstructions using Coopes's Beetle assemblages (from Beetle elytra) are somewhat in conflict with those derived from palyonological studies. I am not up to speed on the latest research, but I know the fine detail of it all is still open to question.

I agree with you about management of nature reserves for specific species or habitats and what I said was not attack on this. However, in my experience these management techniques are also unthinkingly applied to other sites where it is not appropriate, or where there are no well defined goals or appreciation as to what it is supposed to achieve.

Funding is a prime motivator for inappropriately applying some of this management.

When I was describing none management I was talking about it being used on none priority habitat types, where nearly all the similar type habitat is subjected to constant management - not necessarily for conservation, but for agriculture. Basically I find it odd that we don't just let a little bit of this habitat do what it wants. If there is some habitat like this that has been left to do what it wants, it is only a matter of time before someone wants to intervene, manage it, and improve it. I believe that it says a lot about our view of nature and that we feel a bit of a compulsive need to interfere and intervene, even if it is not really necessary.

Finally, look at this interesting bit about the world's oldest living (that has been dated) tree in Sweden. Notice how it questions our current views on deglaciation.
news.nationalgeograp...

It's a nice discussion about something dear to my heart, but I'm trying to avoid the detailed stuff to avoid overwhelming others reading this.

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Message 35 - posted by Jeannie (U14167325) , Nov 6, 2009

Hi theSteb, I thought you were mightily interested about vegetation ecology - it is fascinating I agree and findings sometimes can be contradictory, like the rest of biological science I suppose. I started off in the Quaternary evolutionary direction, but ended up in genetics and epidemiology. If only I had the time to cover both areas. Sigh.
Wow, the 9,550 year old tree is wonderful news. I wonder how large the root system is and if it has had a mycorrhizal asscoiation for any significant length of time. It was really distressing to read "Human activity lower down has demolished all sorts of things that could have been extremely old". With all the resources and information we supposedly intelligent beings have I find it exasperating that such destruction still occurs.

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Message 36 - posted by sarahlcookson (U14193379) , Nov 6, 2009

Lol means "laugh out loud"

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