Happy New Year!
Bowdleflode News No. 44 – January 2022
Bison? In Britain?
One of the big environmental stories to come out of 2021 has been rewilding. There have been global efforts to restore ecosystems with many successful species reintroductions and the return of wildlife previously thought to be extinct or critically endangered.
In Argentina, just as proposals to reintroduce sea otters to the Iberá wetlands were progressing, a giant river otter popped up nearby. Then a red wolf reintroduction programme returned to prominence in North Carolina in the US, and white rhinos arrived in Rwanda for the first time, while in the UK support for the return of the lynx grew. Scientists even announced plans to bring back the woolly mammoth. Here are some new species to look out for across the British Isles in 2022:
Four bison, Europe’s largest land mammal, are arriving in north Kent in spring 2022 as part of a 519-acre rewilding project to create more wildlife-rich woodlands. The species were driven out of the UK 6,000 years ago by hunting and habitat loss. These “gentle giants” will be homed at a site in Blean Woods, managed by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust. These large mammals create dynamic habitats in woodlands by knocking down trees, stripping off bark, nibbling vegetation and making dust baths.
The northern pool frog is finally croaking again on Thompson Common in Norfolk – its last stronghold before it became extinct in England about 20 years ago. 300 tadpoles were released in July, bringing the total to more than 1,000 during the six-year project. The critically endangered northern pool frog is England’s rarest amphibian and was driven to extinction by the destruction of wetland habitats in East Anglia. Conservationists are confident the frogs have formed a self-sustaining population, breeding successfully on multiple ponds.
Thanks to a collaboration between Citizen Zoo, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural England, large marsh grasshoppers have been reintroduced to wetlands across Norfolk. About 1,000 of these elusive green insects were released at two secret marshy sites in the summer. Before the translocation, Britain’s largest grasshopper only existed in a few fragmented sites in Dorset and Somerset, with concerns the species would become extinct in the next few decades if nothing was done. After this success, wildlife charities and private landowners have been in touch with Citizen Zoo about returning the grasshoppers to sites elsewhere in the UK.
A Northern Pool Frog awaiting release
The Large Marsh Grasshopper
Melvin Smith – the Caribbean’s best botanist
Melvin Smith with some pencil cedars
Melvin Smith is quite literally a hero – and he even has an award to prove it! Nicknamed “the Caribbean’s best botanist”, he’s championed the desperate rescue of the pencil cedar tree (juniper).
With just 100 left – a single wildfire could easily have wiped them out completely. Melvin wouldn’t let that happen though. Using his extraordinary climbing skills, he’s climbed the Petit Piton mountain (St Lucia) time and time again, collecting seeds from wild pencil cedars. From his home nursery, he’s used these to rear 300 new trees – triple that of the original population. That achievement, quite rightly, has earned him a 2021 Disney Conservation Hero award.
In case you are wondering, there are at least three types of ‘pencil cedar’ trees. One is native to Australasia, one is not even a cedar at all but is the nickname given to Mediterranean cupressus trees and the third, least known is a very rare type of juniper that is native to Saint Lucia and Barbados (although now extinct in Barbados). Its proper formal name is Juniperus barbadensis Linnaeus var. barbadensis.
Green New Year’s resolutions for your garden?
While you’re thinking about New Year’s resolutions, you might be considering giving up booze or turning vegan – but with climate change and sustainability in the spotlight, why not turn over a new leaf with some eco-friendly gardening resolutions too? There are plenty of easy ways to plant the seeds of sustainability through next year and beyond.
1. Buy Local!
Wherever you are in the world, by buying local, you’re supporting local nurseries. It means you’re getting the freshest possible plants, and creating fewer plant miles because they haven’t travelled far from nursery to garden centre.
2. Use peat-free compost
If you have the space, make your own compost or ask your garden centre for a completely 100% peat free option.
Putting a layer of mulch over your soil helps it to retain moisture and suppresses weeds.
4. Water wisely
Add a water butt to your garden to collect rain off your roof and reuse water.
5. Encourage wildlife into your garden
Plant flowers that are good for pollinators; provide shelter like a bug hotel or a nest box; add water (a pond, a bird bath or even a small bowl of water helps) and feed the birds.
6. Plant a tree
As well as being beautiful and giving structure to a garden, trees are a fantastic habitat and food source for wildlife, and of course a source of carbon capture. Try planting a gorgeous flowering cherry in your garden or, space permitting, larger trees such as birch, magnolia or hornbeam. On a balcony or terrace, you may have space for a small acer in a pot.
7. Grow your own
If you possibly can, grow your own fruit and veg. It is so satisfying. It may take a bit of time, but you will be well rewarded with delicious, fresh, seasonal produce. It’s much cheaper than going to the supermarket and it reduces your environmental impact too.
8. Shop locally
Try and support local shops and garden centres. Your local community will benefit and you will be reducing carbon by travelling fewer miles too.
9. And don’t forget Hedgehogs!
If you live in a country where there are hedgehogs, perhaps put a hedgehog shelter in your garden and try to make little gaps in fencing or walls so that these beautiful little endangered creatures can travel from place to place. They appreciate being fed too (but use the right food). Please do your very best to support wildlife in every way you can.
Bowdleflode of the Month
This month’s Bowdleflode has been created by Oliver, age 7!
Oliver describes his creation as:
“A reptile who is small but feisty. They have scales on their back, a crocodile face, hyena body, turtle feet and an Arctic Fox tail. Their diet is mostly fish, especially salmon. You can find them swimming in the rainforests.”
Thank you Oliver for your fabulous creation!!