This report provides a brief summary and feedback of the project and presents the data collected by the Community River Monitoring volunteers and this data source will feed into Clackmannanshire Councils forthcoming Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) options appraisal report for Tillicoultry.
This illustrates how citizen scientists can collect and generate useful data for the Council and feed directly into Council plans / reports and can influence future FRM approaches for the Council and at the same time fulfilled the needs, interests and abilities of volunteers involved – a real collaborative approach between Clackmannanshire Council and citizen scientists!
A new Citizen Science survey is in its last stages of development before being release to the world (hopefully!) It is of course, The Dead Good Deadwood Survey. The aim of the survey is to increase knowledge and understanding of the importance of deadwood to enable community woodland groups to make sustainable decisions for their woodland management. The survey not only focuses on deadwood but also allows participants to record its associated wildlife. Whether you are part of a community woodland group looking to improve your woodland, or simply a nature enthusiast wanting to get outside, this survey is a simple and fun way to learn about your environment and how to improve it for nature and for you.
The Forestry Commission suggests that healthy woodland (broadleaf or conifer) should have three standing and three fallen pieces of large (over 20cm in diameter and over 2m long) deadwood per hectare. The survey requires participants to walk a 100m section of woodland, noting down how many pieces of large deadwood they spot on the way.
The survey also asks you to stop at each piece of deadwood and look for living things on it, such as bugs and plants. It asks you feel the texture of the wood and to estimate the stage of decay the wood is at based on the structure of the wood and the creatures you find on it.
Gathering this information means you can work out if there is a healthy amount of deadwood but also a healthy variety of stages of decay present. It’s also suggests ways in which you can improve deadwood habitats in your woodland and the survey can be repeated after these improvements to see if the biodiversity on your site has increased. The survey is perfect for someone who wants to monitor the health of a particular site, or for people who simply want to get out and explore the woods, collecting research on the way.
So far the survey has been trialed with a number of community groups and has proven to be very popular.
The first of these groups was Shadoxhurst Baden Powel Scout group, a group of twelve scouts and their leaders who had come to join TCV for an event as part of National Tree Week. The scouts were already an outdoorsy bunch, but they admitted that they didn’t know just how valuable deadwood could be. One young man commented ‘well I guess there is more to deadwood than just setting it on fire’! It was lovely to see a group of young people become captivated by the subject of rotting wood and their highlight of the day was finding a leopard slug!
The survey was then trailed with a gardening group called Space to Grow, based in Maryhill in Glasgow. Space to Grow are used to trying out Citizen Science surveys with TCV and were happy to give us their thoughts on deadwood.
Do keep an eye on TCV’s website, social media, and blog pages to hear more about the dead good deadwood survey. While you’re waiting, there is some brilliant information and resources out there all about deadwood to inspire you:
TCV is currently working with the Forestry Commission Scotland as part of the Scotland Counts Project to produce a new Citizen Science project all about Deadwood! How exciting! This first blog will give you a bit of background information about deadwood and why it needs our help 🙂
So what exactly is Deadwood? And why is it dead good?
Deadwood is a tree or part of a tree that has died and is in a stage of decomposition.
Here are five different types of deadwood (figure 1):
Deadwood is extremely important to the health of woodlands and even us humans! It plays a big part in nutrient recycling. As plants grow they take nutrients from the soil to help them thrive. If the plant is then removed from that soil, as it often is when you are growing vegetables to eat, then those nutrients are taken away, which is why farmers have to add nutrients back into their soil with compost and fertilisers. In a more natural environment like a forest, where plants like trees are left to grow and die, then the dead wood from the trees will slowly release nitrogen into the soil as it decays for other plants to use.
Deadwood also acts as a carbon storage system, capturing the carbon that the tree has taken in over its life and locking it into the ground to prevent that carbon being released into the atmosphere, which is a cause of unnatural global warning.
Fallen deadwood also helps the stability of woodland soil and helps prevent soil erosion.
Last but definitely not least, deadwood is an important microhabitat for hundreds of wildlife species and is used by birds, mammals, fungi, plants, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and even fish! Ancient woodlands are thought to have the most variety of plants and animals of all the UK habitats and40% of woodland wildlife species are dependent on deadwood at some stage of their life. This includes living on or in the deadwood, eating it, or eating the things that live and grow on it. There are some very intriguing relationships between specific living things relying on very specific types of deadwood, making deadwood home to some of the rarest species on earth. For example, the pine hoverfly only breeds in wet pockets of decay on scots pine tree stumps, and the black tinder fungus beetle only lives on the fruiting bodies of the tinder fungus which only lives on dead birch trees.
It’s these very specific relationships that give deadwood such a great biodiversity value, because there are so many species of trees decaying and different rates and stages and shapes and sizes, it has enabled thousands of other living things to take advantage of these different stages, and take advantage of the creatures taking advantage of deadwood!
But it’s these very specialised niches and relationships that mean deadwood is particularly vulnerable to human activity and environmental change.
Threats to deadwood habitats:
Removal: Deadwood makes great firewood and is often removed from woodlands to be used as fuel. Deadwood is also removed from parks and public woodlands as it is thought to be ‘messy’ or even dangerous as it is thought that it could harbour pests and diseases, or fall on your head. Some land managers feel there is a need to be in keeping with this public perception of tidiness, but unfortunately wildlife, and deadwood, will not thrive in a tidy park or woodland garden.
Uniform Age and Species Structure: Many of our woodland areas in Britain are actually forestry plantations. This involves lots of trees (mainly conifer species) being planted all at the same time closely together, so that the trees produce long straight timber that can be harvested and used for building. This is great for timber production, but the problem is that it means all the trees are of the same species and same age. In natural woodland the trees would be a mixture of those that are dead or ancient veteran trees right down to saplings which would host a healthy variety and covering of types of deadwood.
Loss of traditional woodland management: Woodlands are one of the few natural habitats in Britain that have historically benefitted from human activity. Traditionally our woodlands were managed to produce a variety of fuel and building materials, food and hunting opportunities. Different traditional practices such as coppicing and pollarding (cutting trees to so that they sprout several poles of flexible wood rather than one long piece of timber) meant that areas of woodland where opened up, allowing more light to the woodland floor and therefore encouraging more ground flora. Regular and varied harvesting also meant that many deadwood habitats where created. Sadly there is no longer a demand for these woodland products and activities, it is now cheaper to buy timber from abroad, people now use fencing rather than coppice poles, and the public prefer to buy their food from shops rather than forage it. This has led to woodlands becoming less bio-diverse and the reduction in deadwood certainly has a hand in this.
Fertilisers and Pesticides: Many large farms and plantations spray pesticides on their crops. These pesticides can very easily be absorbed by deadwood which then kills any invertebrates living within it, or animals that then eat the invertebrates.
So it sounds like deadwood, and all the creatures that love it, could do with a bit of help, to get more people excited about deadwood and its protection.
This is why we in the TCV Citizen Science team have been working to produce The Dead Good Deadwood Survey!
The reason we have done this is to create an educational tool kit that will help people understand the benefits of looking after deadwood whilst also providing us and them with new information about our local woodlands and green spaces. Keep an eye out for our next blog to find out how exactly you can survey deadwood and improve deadwood habitats, but for now, head out and see if you can spot some dead good deadwood!
Figure 1. Forestry Commission (2012) Different types of deadwood found in forests and woodlands [Illustration] At: Jonathan Humphrey and Sallie Bailey (2012). Managing deadwood in forests and woodlands. Forestry Commission Practice Guide. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.
As part of TCV’s Scotland Counts Project we visited Uplawmoor Primary School in Glasgow to play with worms! We had a fantastic Citizen Science filled day looking at the soil and earthworms in the school grounds and learning about the vital role soil has.
For example, DID YOU KNOW…..
One quarter of the world’s biodiversity is found in the soil, which in turn supports most of the food chains on our planet
Soil filters our water to keep it clean
Healthy soil also soaks up pollution making our air cleaner
Soil soaks up water, helping to prevent flooding
Soil stores more carbon that trees, making it very important in preventing global warming
95% of our food needs soil
It is one of the most important resources on the planet and the least renewable
And that’s just the soil! DID YOU KNOW…..
The longest earthworm ever found was three meters long!
Earthworm burrows let oxygen into the soil and help prevent flooding
Earthworms create healthy soil, without them we couldn’t grow food
Earthworms are detritivores and eat all the leaves that fall in autumn, and turn them into soil
Earthworms are a food source for hundreds of other animals like birds and badgers
The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy being allowed to run free and play in the mud, and it was an extremely muddy day!
Each of the children did a Soil and Earthworm Survey in which they tested the soil in their field to find out its pH, texture, and soil type. They then identified the species of worms they had found.
Some children were a little reluctant to get their hands dirty, but they soon joined in when they saw how much fun everyone was having. I find it amazing to see people scared of dirt, especially when it does all those amazing things listed above for us! It’s time we stop encouraging this fear of germs and dirt and all things natural, after all, soil has been found to contain natural chemicals that are proven to increase our moods and have antidepressant qualities. What better way the help children grow healthy happy minds than to get them to study the amazing creatures in the ground.
The children’s survey results were given to OPAL, a nationwide Citizen Science initiative, so that all their hard work and research was contributed to national soil research.
Overall it was a very successful day, and it was wonderful to see children doing exactly what they should be, playing and learning in the dirt and discovering the amazing world that they live in.