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OtleyLad

Wild, Natural, Boring?

I'm not quite sure what we are talking about when we use the word 'wild' to describe a particular ecosystem worthy of preservation or as something to aim for.

There's virtually nowhere in the UK that has been untouched by human activity so what is the 'control' model.
Examples being so-called ancient woodland: "woodland that has existed continuously since 1600 or before" (from Wikipedia). Does this mean its 'natural' or automatically worthy of preservation?

I'm hugely sceptical of nature 'reserves' too. Who decides what is allowed to grow within them and why? Shouldn't we just fence them off and let 'nature' decide what happens within?

Personally I prefer landscapes with as little urban developemnt as possible - but thats just me - I know quite a few people who regard such places as 'empty' or boring (where's the shops?).
Tavascarow

You are right, there is little true natural habitat in the UK but of the various habitats that exist many are threatened.
In fact IMHO they are all threatened, apart from the ones that make money.
If all land was left to rewild then there would be nothing but mixed, oak predominant woodland.
As beautiful & biodiverse as that is there are also other habitats, like Robs Ings & my lowland heath that are worthy of protection even if they where man made centuries or even millennia ago.
Many rare & endangered species have adapted to live on these habitats & it would be a great loss if they went.
Rob R

Re: Wild, Natural, Boring?

I'm hugely sceptical of nature 'reserves' too. Who decides what is allowed to grow within them and why? Shouldn't we just fence them off and let 'nature' decide what happens within.


No, you can't reverse man made landscape by just leaving them, as they still have the influence of what man did hanging over them. You are choosing to leave them at a given point in time, not restoring them to how they were before man took over. To do this you would need to not fence them off, reverse any drainage improvements and give them significant amounts of time to recover.

Re-wilding is human management, just a different kind. We can't reverse the extinctions that have happened in the interim and just leaving it doesn't necessarily improve biodiversity, as the species that have survived have done so alongside human activity and many of them now depend upon it.

Here are some ings land that have just been fenced off and left (hopefully we're going to be able to graze them in the next week or so). The drainage ditches help drain them, but only to a degree as they don't have land drains in and the drains are mainly there to take water off the surrounding arable land.

Instead of building peat, because the land has been left ungrazed, growth has actually slowed down. The coverage of tall, rough grasses and vegetation first of all blocks out light to ground level. Then the vegetation isn't cut so it dies off and oxidises where it stands rather than being accumulated into soil carbon. Then the next year there is less active growth, because the light is blocked out, and less carbon is taken from the air by the plants
Rob R

Perhaps you should come along and take a look at the variety of habitats that National Nature Reserves protect, or maybe this leaflet will help.

We have everything from MG4 grasslands, through lowland heath to alder carr woodland here in the valley. In the wider Yorkshire area there are the moors at Crowle/Thorne/Goole, though they've been greatly reduced by arable farming all around but they are still a huge expanse that you wouldn't want to cross.
OtleyLad

This is what I mean Rob. You can't roll back the clock - wherever the land is, unless its an island thats never had human occupation, its going to be affected by what we have done on it and are presently doing around it.

But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.
Rob R

Increasing biodiversity means broadening the number and variety of different species, plants and animals, present.

That doesn't necessarily mean encouraging everything as you can grow a sea of thistles anywhere, so why tollerate them in a nature reserve,? That's not to say you have to remove them by any means possible, but neither is it a beneficial use of resources to encourage them.

If left to their own devices introduced invasive species, such as himalayan balsam, would take over our native species and push them out.
Tavascarow

hopefully the species that are allowed to flourish will be the ones most threatened. If a species is doing well it's usually because its required habitat is abundant, or it's adapted to a variety of habitats so does not require protection.
Some species have co evolved or really just adapted to live in a certain habitat & forgotten how to survive in their original one.
If that habitat is threatened the species becomes threatened as well & requires protection.
Nick

This is what I mean Rob. You can't roll back the clock - wherever the land is, unless its an island thats never had human occupation, its going to be affected by what we have done on it and are presently doing around it.

But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.


In the same way as foxes, eagles, badgers, bigger fish and parasitic worms control other species' numbers?
Rob R

There's some great footage of 'our' local nature reserve in this video, which also shows that nature isn't natural - there's a lot of hard work involved. Shane

It's something I raised a while back in this thread:

Quote:
That's the funny thing about conservationists - they all seem to want to reset the British countryside back to how it was in the 1950s before modern industrial farming had really started to reshape the way we manage the land in Britain. But why choose this as your arbitrary reference point for what natural Britain looked like before we messed it all up? Why not take things back to before the Industrial Revolution and the massive expansion of the canal and rail systems and declare that as a fit starting point? Or 5000 years or so ago, before our Iron Age ancestors (or whoever it was) started mass deforestation?

Conservation is essentially about preserving a snapshot in time, but who determines which time frame to pick, and what is the ultimate aim?

It's an interesting debate, and I'm not sure where my final opinion will lie with this one as there are so many valid viewpoints.
OtleyLad

Increasing biodiversity means broadening the number and variety of different species, plants and animals, present.


I know that Rob - but in nature reserves we always choose which species will be allowed to increase and which will be excluded.


But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.

In the same way as foxes, eagles, badgers, bigger fish and parasitic worms control other species' numbers?

Except the above control them by eating, etc. Generally that is not our motivation.


Conservation is essentially about preserving a snapshot in time, but who determines which time frame to pick, and what is the ultimate aim?
It's an interesting debate, and I'm not sure where my final opinion will lie with this one as there are so many valid viewpoints.

Shane has it in a nutshell. Just what is the aim and on what premise is it based?

Perhaps nature reserves should be renamed to something more appropriate like 'Botanic Museums'.
Mistress Rose

We have to decide which time we want, and that is artificial, but can be useful. In our woods we manage habitat and not for species. Our idea is that if you manage the habitat knowing some of the species that are present and what the habitat used to be, there is a good chance of the species survival and increase.

We have a mixture of hardwood plantation and seriously overstood hazel with standards and hazel and ash coppice. The coppice hasn't been properly managed for about 40 years. We are restoring the coppice about an acre at a time, but thinning the plantation with a view to bringing it into continuous cover woodland. We also have some areas that we will leave completely unmanaged to see what they do.

To give some idea of the difference in biodiversity, I did a flora survey in on coup this summer. We found 70 species of plant (including trees and shrubs). I am fairly sure we missed some plants as we didn't find the twayblade that I know were there the previous year. Before we cut this it was virtually wall to wall wild garlic with the odd bluebell and early purple orchid.

We know we have dormice in the wood, and this work should improve things for them, and the bats which we know forage up the lane as it increases the flowers, berries and insects. Because we now have coppice at the right stage we have also had a return of nightingales.
Rob R

Increasing biodiversity means broadening the number and variety of different species, plants and animals, present.


I know that Rob - but in nature reserves we always choose which species will be allowed to increase and which will be excluded.

So what is it that you're asking? There is motivation in everything we do, be that active management of nature or total neglect. There is a clear advantage to management, but I'm unaware of the advantage of your fence it off & leave it approach. It makes no difference what you call it (although a museum maintains items as they are now while a reserve is always in flux, never static & always adapting to external forces.
Nick



But what does increasing biodiversity actually mean? - presumably as usual its we who decide which species are going to be allowed to flourish and which aren't.

In the same way as foxes, eagles, badgers, bigger fish and parasitic worms control other species' numbers?

Except the above control them by eating, etc. Generally that is not our motivation.


So?
OtleyLad

We have to decide which time we want, and that is artificial, but can be useful. ... if you manage the habitat knowing some of the species that are present and what the habitat used to be, there is a good chance of the species survival and increase.


This is the truth of it. We decide - so its not a 'nature' reserve at all.

I'm not against preserving different habitats at all. Just that perhaps we should be more specific about what we are preserving.

Here in Wharfedale most of the high ground is 'moorland' - heather/whinberry/bracken on thin acidic soil/peat. Left to its own devices it would resort to woodland. The lack of trees means you get lots of big views when you're up there but its pretty barren really.
The moors have been managed (mostly for grouse shooting) for a long time so most people view them as 'natural' and don't want them changed (and the peaty runnoff pollutes the water). Shame as they could be a lot more productive and support more wildlife if people were more flexible about how they are managed.
Mistress Rose

I don't know a lot about moors, but they do support a particular ecosystem. If they became woodland, some of this would die out and a different ecosystem would take over.

Our downs were formed by grazing and if the grazing ceases they become woodland. We lose the plants associated with the downland turf and all the associated insects etc.

So yes, we have to choose, and in that way it isn't 'natural', but choosing to maintain habitats that are becoming rare is at least one way to keep the ecosystems associated with them.
OtleyLad

I don't know a lot about moors, but they do support a particular ecosystem. If they became woodland, some of this would die out and a different ecosystem would take over.


You're right - but it doesn't have to be exclusively one or the other - more of a greater variety.
Rob R

So what's the problem with nature reserves? Is this purely semantics?

We have the opposite problem here and work goes on to keep trees from encroaching due to a lack of management.
buzzy

We have to decide which time we want, and that is artificial, but can be useful. ... if you manage the habitat knowing some of the species that are present and what the habitat used to be, there is a good chance of the species survival and increase.


This is the truth of it. We decide - so its not a 'nature' reserve at all.

I'm not against preserving different habitats at all. Just that perhaps we should be more specific about what we are preserving.

Here in Wharfedale most of the high ground is 'moorland' - heather/whinberry/bracken on thin acidic soil/peat. Left to its own devices it would resort to woodland. The lack of trees means you get lots of big views when you're up there but its pretty barren really.
The moors have been managed (mostly for grouse shooting) for a long time so most people view them as 'natural' and don't want them changed (and the peaty runnoff pollutes the water). Shame as they could be a lot more productive and support more wildlife if people were more flexible about how they are managed.

Well, it's not 'natural' but most reserves are created to preserve 'nature' - that is, a specific stage in habitat development that supports a particular group of species. What has sometimes been forgotten is that that particular stage has been arrived at by a certain type of management, and management needs to continue if those species are to have the best chance of continuing. Visitors who don't realise that are often horrified by necessary management - I wouldn't be surprised if people on here could tell you tales about coppicing!

Henry
Mistress Rose

Definitely Buzzy. Our coppice hasn't been cut for over 50 years, and we will probably never get it back to the state it was then, but by starting the coppice cycle again, we are getting woodland plants and animals that haven't been seen for a very long time.

The natural state of our woodland appears to be a lovely tangle; dark, damp, not much good for anything but the odd fern to live in. We have one reserved area like that, and another which we need to do some work in urgently seems to be trying to resemble it.
OtleyLad

So what's the problem with nature reserves? Is this purely semantics?

We have the opposite problem here and work goes on to keep trees from encroaching due to a lack of management.

It was more about who decides (and by what process) which particular habitat and species mix will be chosen to survive.
Rob R

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.
Nick

Then all you'd have to do would be to define well managed. Suspect definitions may vary. Shareholders at Monsanto and you may disagree slightly. Wink Rob R

Forcing generally bypasses consent. OtleyLad

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.

Is there any kind of labelling/branding that informs the customer?
Nick

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.

Is there any kind of labelling/branding that informs the customer?

I'm guessing free range and organic would be the closest wide spread schemes? And they're pretty poor. As always, knowing your farmer is the answer, but not practical for most.
Rob R

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.

Is there any kind of labelling/branding that informs the customer?

I'm guessing free range and organic would be the closest wide spread schemes? And they're pretty poor. As always, knowing your farmer is the answer, but not practical for most.

You mean they can't be arsed. The biggest barrier to buying direct for the majority of people remains not being sufficiently bothered about it.
Tavascarow

The problems are caused (IMHO) by people who see human activity as being somehow outside nature.
Most things done in the name of progress have been conducted by groups or individuals who see themselves apart from, not part of nature.
It's a Victorian, Judeo/Christian hangup that man has dominion over nature, well past its sell by date.
Whatever we do has an impact, usually detrimental.
So by accepting everything (including human activity) is a part of nature, which it is as we all live on the same planet. & acting positively to rectify some of the mistakes made previously by the greedy or ignorant, we can help rare & endangered species, & habitats survive & thrive through habitat management.
I'd prefer the whole environment to be nature friendly but it's not.
Nature reserves are close to being open air zoo exhibits but at the same time essential just as captive breeding programs are in zoos.
Rob R

The problems are caused (IMHO) by people who see human activity as being somehow outside nature.

Spot on. Living landscapes all the way.
Rob R

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.

Is there any kind of labelling/branding that informs the customer?

There is lots of labelling and branding, which is as diverse as the agricultural industry. That's the main issue really, branding that works involves having exactly the same thing in every outlet throughout the globe. Trying to fit sustainable agriculture into this business model is bound to fall short. That's why localism is so important, it doesn't rely upon labels and branding, more upon people and relationships, and it's naturally more difficult to deceive someone if they can come and visit you.
Nick

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.

Is there any kind of labelling/branding that informs the customer?

I'm guessing free range and organic would be the closest wide spread schemes? And they're pretty poor. As always, knowing your farmer is the answer, but not practical for most.

You mean they can't be arsed. The biggest barrier to buying direct for the majority of people remains not being sufficiently bothered about it.

No I don't. Most people live in cities, or away from farms. It's not practical to get to know the farmers. Farmers markets aren't great, and farm gates are a long way away. Buying over the Internet isn't knowing your supplier.
Rob R

Well the land managers and/or the legislators decided at present, in addition to the public, either through trusts or their buying habits. I know that isn't always perfect but it works as well as it can.

Personally I'd prefer it if everyone was forced to consume more products from well managed grazing & woodlands, but it's difficult enough getting people who care about the environment to do that, never mind everyone else.

Is there any kind of labelling/branding that informs the customer?

I'm guessing free range and organic would be the closest wide spread schemes? And they're pretty poor. As always, knowing your farmer is the answer, but not practical for most.

You mean they can't be arsed. The biggest barrier to buying direct for the majority of people remains not being sufficiently bothered about it.

No I don't. Most people live in cities, or away from farms. It's not practical to get to know the farmers. Farmers markets aren't great, and farm gates are a long way away. Buying over the Internet isn't knowing your supplier.

The internet is a mere communication tool, you don't have to use it, but you can, without much effort or cost.
Nick

You can, but that doesn't really mean you know your supplier.

If it does, I've seen pigs and cows in glorious green pasture looking happy and contented. Mostly on supermarket web sites.
Rob R

Like I say, it's a communication tool, only works if you use it to communicate. Mistress Rose

If you go to a proper farmers market affiliated to Farma, either the producer, or someone that knows how the food was produced should be running the stall. That is one of the rules.

Branding is a bit dubious imo. If you are willing to pay to belong to a scheme, you get the brand. Some schemes are very hot on inspections, and these are likely to be the most expensive to join, so there is a good chance that you can get just as well produced things outside them.

The best way to find produce from well managed sources is to look around. It is easy to go into a supermarket and just buy things with pretty pictures attached, but the independent butcher or greengrocer may well be able to tell you exactly where the produce comes from and how they manage their farm.

As we sometimes get people coming down from London to buy at markets down here, about 60 miles away, but with good rail connections, all be it, about once a month, it can't be that difficult to find someone who supplies from well managed farms.
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