This Week in Biodiversity News – June 29th

This Phillipine butterfly had a mistaken identity for years, until its ‘rediscovery’. A pair of scientists have discovered a new subspecies of butterfly whose only known habitat is at the peak of a potentially active volcano in the central Philippines.

Koala’s will be driven to extinction before 2050 in New South Wales, major inquiry finds. State parliamentary investigation finds the biggest threat to the species’ survival is habitat loss – but logging and clearing has continued.

Forest loss escalates biodiversity change. New international research focusing on biodiversity data spanning 150 years and over 6,000 locations, published in the journal Science, reveals that as tree cover is lost across the world’s forests, plants and animals are responding to the transformation of their natural habitats, revealing both losses and gains in species.

Dolphins learn how to use tools from peers, just like great apes. A new study upends the belief that only mothers teach hunting skills, adding to growing evidence of dolphin intelligence, experts say. It is the first known example of dolphins transmitting such knowledge within the same generation, rather than between generations.

The NHBS Guide to UK Tree Identification

Trees are a vital part of our ecosystem and essential to all life. Trees offer habitation and food to wildlife, they provide us with oxygen, clean the air, conserve water and stabilise soil. As such, trees are invaluable to our environment and to human well-being. 

In the UK there are at least fifty native tree species, and they come in many different sizes and shapes. All trees have distinct features that can help with identification. In this blog we will focus on 10  common native trees and provide you with the most important things you need to look out for, so you can recognise Oak from Elder or Silver Birch from Ash. 

How to Identify a Tree: 

By looking at the overall features as well as where the tree is growing you can work out what the species is. Below are some key characteristics to look out for when trying to identify a tree :

  • The size and shape of the tree
  • Leaves and needles
  • Flowers and fruit
  • Bark, buds and twigs

10 Common British Trees and How to Identify Them:

1. Oak (Quercus robur)
Oak by Gedomaru via Flickr

Where to find: The ancient, wise oak is one of Britain’s most iconic species, standing tall for hundreds of years, it can be found across the country

How to identify:

The common pedunculate oak is a large deciduous tree growing up to 40m tall, with a grey bark when young and darker brown with fissures as it ages.

Look out for: Its oval to oblong shaped leaves with its familiar deep lobed margins with smooth edges. Oak can be easily identified by its distinctive acorns that hang on long stalks. 

2. Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
Ash tree by David Radcliffe via Flickr

Where to find: Ash is a common, widespread tree often found amongst British hedgerows and in many mixed deciduous woods in the UK.

How to identify: 

Ash grows tall, up to 30-40m, the bark is pale brown and fissures as the tree ages.

Look out for: The tree can be recognised by its pinnately compound leaves, usually comprising three to six opposite pairs of light green, oval leaflets. The buds are one of its defining characteristics. The buds are a sooty black with upturned grey shoots. Sadly, ash is also identified by a serious disease called Ash dieback that is a substantial threat to the species. The fungus appears as black blotches on the leaves, and the whole tree appears to be dying back. 

3. Common Lime (Tilia x europaea)
Lime tree by louis.quinzexv via Flickr

Where to find: The sweet smelling lime is native to much of Europe, found scattered across the wild it is more commonly found in parks and along residential streets

How to identify: 

Common lime is a tall, broadleaf tree, and is a natural hybrid between large-leaved and small-leaved limes. 

Look out for: The Common lime has dark green heart-shaped leaves. It is known for its sweet, smelling white-yellow flowers, that hang in clusters of two to five and  develop into round, oval fruits with pointed tips. The common lime can be distinguished from other lime varieties by the twiggy suckers around the base of its trunk. 

4. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Hawthorn by David Lee via Flickr

Where to find: An ancient tree steeped in mythology and folklore, hawthorn is most commonly found growing in hedgerows, woodland and scrub. 

How to identify:

Hawthorn is identified by its dense, thorny foliage, and if left to fully mature can grow to a height of 15m.

Look out for: Shiny lobed leaves, and five petalled, sweet smelling flowers that are similar to cherry blossoms. It is characterised in the winter by its deep red fruits, known as haws.  

5. Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Hazel by Stoutcob via Flickr

Where to find: Used regularly for coppicing, hazel can be found in a range of habitats, including woodlands, gardens and grasslands.

How to identify:

A small shrubby tree, with a small, grey-brown bark, and can reach up to 12m when left to grow. 

Look out for: Leaves are oval, toothed, and have soft hairs on their underside. It is familiar for its long yellow catkins that appear in Spring, and crop of hazelnuts in the winter. 

6. Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
Alder via Flickr

Where to find: Common Alder enjoys moist ground and so can be found along riversides, fens and wet woodlands, providing shelter to fish. 

How to identify:

Alder is a deciduous tree that grows to 25m. It is broadly conical in shape, and the bark is dark and fissured.

Look out for: Small cone like fruits and young catkins that harden when pollinated. It can also be recognised by its purple buds and purple twigs with orange markings in winter.  

7. Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Holly by Douglas Cox via Flickr

Where to find: A favourite in Christmas decorations, holly is widespread and found commonly in woodland, scrub and hedgerows. 

How to identify:

The dense, evergreen tree has a smooth bark and dark brown stems. It can grow up to 15m in height. 

Look out for: Holly can be easily identified by its dark, evergreen, shiny leaves that have prickles on the edges, as well as its bright red berries.

8. White Willow (Salix alba)
Willow by Bill Cheesman via Flickr

Where to find: The weeping, romantic willow can be spotted growing in wet ground, for example along riverbanks and around lakes. 

How to identify: 

White willow is a large, fast growing tree growing up to 25m, with an irregular, leaning crown.

Look out for: Willow is distinguished from other trees by its slender, flexible twigs that drape into the water. White willow appears more silvery than other willows due to its pale, oval leaves, that carry silky, white hairs on the underside. In early Spring look out for its long yellow catkins.

9. Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
Silver Birch by Jan Roles via Flickr

Where to find: A pioneer species, silver birch is a popular garden tree, and thrives in moorlands, heathland and dry and sandy soils.

How to identify:

Can be easily recognised by its silvery, paper bark. It has drooping branches and can reach 30m in height. 

Look out for: Its triangular-shaped leaves that grow from hairless leaf stalks. In Spring flowers appear as yellow-brown catkins that hang in groups, once pollinated female catkins thicken and darken to a crimson colour. 

10. Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Elder by Rüdiger Heiß via Flickr

Where to find: Historically known for its magical properties, Elder appears in hedges, scrub, woodland, waste and cultivated ground.

How to identify: 

Elder can be identified by its short greyish-brown trunk, that develops deep creases as it ages. The tree can grow to around 15m.

Look out for: Elder has compound leaves, each leaf divided into five to seven leaflets. In summer Elder is recognised by its creamy, sweet, smelling white flowers that hang in sprays, and later in autumn develop into deep, purple berries. 

Recommended reading and guides:

Collins Tree Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Europe

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An essential, definitive, fully-illustrated guide to the trees of Britain and non-Mediterranean Europe.

 

 

The Tree Name Trail: A Key to Common Trees

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This 12-page laminated fold-out chart contains a full-colour illustrated key to the leaves, twigs, fruits and seeds of the commonest broadleaved and coniferous trees of Britain and Ireland.

 

 

London’s Street Trees: A Field Guide to the Urban Forest 

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London is home to an astounding diversity of tree species and this portable book offers a field guide to their identification, as well as suggested walks to see them.

 

RSPB First Book of Trees

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Through beautiful full-page illustration accompanied by key information about each creature, books are designed to encourage young children’s interest in the outside world and the wildlife around them.

 

 

Trees: A Complete Guide to their Biology and Structure

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Roland Ennos sheds new light on trees and their structure by answering questions from the apparently obvious to the obscure but fascinating.

 

Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Trees

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A dendrochronological delight, the beautifully written and illustrated Tree Story reveals the utterly fascinating world of tree-ring research and how it matters to archaeology, palaeoclimatology, and environmental history.

 

Winter Trees: A Photographic Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs

#209999

This AIDGAP guide covers 36 of the common broad-leaved deciduous species, or groups of species, that are most likely to be found in the UK, as well as a few rarer trees.

 

 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 15th June

The UK’s barn owl is growing in numbers thanks to humans. Up to 80% of these distinctive birds now nest in man-made boxes, though encouraging them to set up home takes time. 

New research by an international research team at Kobe university finds eels can act as comprehensive surrogate species for biodiversity conservation in freshwater rivers. It is hoped that conducting activities to restore and protect eel populations will contribute greatly to the recovery and conservation of freshwater ecosystems.

Conservationists successfully track red pandas in the mountains of Nepal by satellite. The mammals are endangered, with numbers down to a few thousand in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China, find out more here about the factors driving them towards extinction. 

Thousands of tons of microplastics are falling from the sky. New research helps unravel how vast amounts of plastic particles travel both regionally and globally by wind. 

Research finds hummingbirds can see diverse colours humans can only imagine. A research team trained wild hummingbirds to perform a series of experiments that revealed that the tiny birds also see combination colors like ultraviolet+green and ultraviolet+red.

This Week in Biodiversity News – June 1st

The discovery of a new breeding pair raises hope for the survival of the world’s rarest primate, the Hainan Gibbon. Ravaged by deforestation and poaching, the ape now lives only in a patch of forest on China’s Hainan island. A comprehensive rescue programme was put in place, including patrols and monitoring, research into the apes’ ecology and behaviour, and the planting of thousands of trees to provide food and shelter.

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour amongst bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early. New research reveals that when pollen is in short supply, bumblebees damage plant leaves in a way that accelerates flower production.

Can video games make people care about wildlife conservation?  Eager to use his tech skills for wildlife conservation, Shah—a National Geographic explorer—founded a game company called Internet of Elephants in 2016. The Kenya-based start-up designs digital experiences to tell real conservation stories based on real data.

Rare UK wildlife thriving in lockdown, reveals National Trust. The National Trust is reporting that emboldened wildlife, from raptors and warblers to badgers, otters and even orcas, appear to be enjoying the disappearance of humans from its gardens, castles and waterways across the UK.

This week, the Wildlife Trusts launched their 30 day wild campaign, encouraging thousands to take part in daily “random acts of wildness”. Find out more and how to get involved here

This Week in Biodiversity News – March 16th

 

Ecologists in England and Scotland, in collaboration with ecologist Christopher Sutherland and Joseph Drake at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, report on a new tool for identifying an “entire community of mammals”, including elusive and endangered species that are otherwise difficult to monitor, by collecting DNA from river water. 

The white stork is returning to the wild in the south of England for the first time in several hundred years. Hunting and loss of habitat are the main factors that have led to their near extinction. After a successful breeding programme in Oxfordshire they are returning to West Sussex. 

Projects to reduce grass cutting and increase the diversity of plants and wildlife along Britain’s roads are having dramatic results for local ecology, seeing the return of butterflies and invertebrates in large numbers. 

 In Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, a complex experiment is working to rebuild the park’s fauna, first by reintroducing herbivores; and, more recently, by establishing a healthy population of carnivores on an ecosystem that has learned to live without them.

7 Female Nature & Science Writers to Read for International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day we have put together a selection of incredible nature and science writing books from some brilliant female writers. 

Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World

by Alice Roberts

In Tamed, Dr. Alice Roberts uncovers the amazing deep history of ten familiar species with incredible wild pasts: dogs, apples and wheat; cattle; potatoes and chickens; rice, maize, and horses – and, finally, humans. Alice Roberts not only reveals how becoming part of our world changed these animals and plants but shows how they became our allies, essential to the survival and success of our own species – and to our future.                                                            

Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Tracking

by Rachel Love Nuwer

In Poached, science journalist Rachel Nuwer takes us on a harrowing journey to the frontlines of the illegal wildlife trade, exploring the forces currently driving demand for animals and their parts – such as the widespread abuses of Chinese medicine and the links with drug trafficking and international crime cartels – and introduces us to the individuals battling to save them: the scientists and activists who believe it is not too late to stop the impending extinctions.

Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells

by Helen Scales

Helen Scales tells the story of the seashell, showing how these simple objects have been sculpted by fundamental rules of mathematics and evolution, how they gave us colour, gems, food and money, and how they are prompting new medicines and teaching scientists how our brains work. Seashells offer an accessible way to reconnect people with nature, helping to heal the rift between ourselves and the undersea world. 

H is for Hawk

by Helen Macdonald 

Destined to be a classic of nature writing, H is for Hawk is a record of a spiritual journey – an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. At the same time, it’s a kaleidoscopic biography of the brilliant and troubled novelist T. H. White, best known for The Once and Future King. It’s a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to try to reconcile death with life and love.

 

Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland

by Helen E Roy

Professor Helen Roy’s research focuses on the effects of environmental change on insect populations and communities. This illustrated field guide covers all 47 species of ladybird occurring in Britain and Ireland in a handy and easy-to-use format. Twenty-six species are colourful and conspicuous and easily recognised as ladybirds; the remaining species are more challenging, but the clear illustrations and up-to-date text in Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland will help to break down the identification barriers.

 

A Crack in Creation: The New Power to Control Evolution 

by Jennifer Doudna

CRISPR is a breakthrough discovery in genetic modification that is causing a revolution. It is an invention that allows us to rewrite the genetic code that shapes and controls all living beings with astonishing accuracy and ease. Jennifer Doudna is the co-inventor of this technology and a scientist of worldwide renown. Writing with fellow researcher Samuel Sternberg, here she provides the definitive account of her discovery, explaining how this wondrous invention works and what it is capable of.

 

Bats: An Illustrated Guide to All Species

by Marianne Taylor

Marianne Taylor has written prolifically on the natural world. This lavishly illustrated handbook offers in-depth profiles of 300 megabats and microbats and detailed summaries of all the species identified to date. An endlessly fascinating guide with an introduction exploring their natural history and unique adaptations to life on the wing. Bats includes close-up images of these animals’ delicate, intricate and sometimes grotesque forms and faces, each shaped by evolution to meet the demands of an extraordinarily specialized life.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 3rd March

 

Images of wild western lowland gorillas in central mainland Equatorial Guinea have been captured by camera traps for the first time in over a decade. The exciting discovery made by conservationists at the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) and the University of West England, confirms the continued existence of gorillas despite heavy hunting pressure.

An exciting new campaign has been launched this week, to gather images of native oysters by the Native Oyster Network – a collaboration between international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and the University of Portsmouth, to help preserve the UK’s native oyster populations. Find out how to get involved here

The UN chief urges for a “more caring” relationship with nature as part of World Wildlife Day 2020, an important global event that takes place every year on the 3rd of March, to celebrate and raise awareness about wild animals and plants. Find out more on the World Wildlife Day website

The Taita Hills of South Eastern Kenya is an important bird and biodiversity area and is named after one of the rarest birds in the world: the Taita Apalis, Taita White-eye, and Taita thrush. Severe habitat loss in the area has made this bird species endangered. Read here about BirdLife Africa’s initiative to protect the Taita and other bird species, by working with local communities in the area. 

Researches at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have just discovered a unique non-oxygen breathing animal. The parasitic, tiny relative of the jellyfish that dwells in salmon tissue, breaks away from the assumption that aerobic respiration is ubiquitous in animals. This discovery bears enormous significance for evolutionary research.