Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Thursday, 5 April 2007

EYE Project: see the world through different eyes!

Can you remember your first wild moment? Perhaps it was catching sticklebacks in a stream or standing on the shoulder of a Cumbrian mountain. After that nothing looked the same. Something made you value the natural world.

This exciting Heritage Lottery-funded 3 year project aims to open up the world of wildlife to volunteers and promote wildlife recording in north-east England. It is a collaboration between the Great North Museum project and the Northumbria Natural History Society, drawing together amateur expertise with young people and volunteers throughout the Newcastle area. I am providing training workshops for the project in 2007.

The training is free and courses on offer this summer include small mammals, wild flower identification and a workshop on how to plan and run a guided wildlife walk for your local community - for dates and details call the project officer, Naomi Hewitt 0191 222 7868

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Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Extreme quadratting!

Ouch! I didn't mean to do it. I don't know why I did it. And now I'm paying for it! I went back to survey the mosses on the palace leas plots and ended up doing 100 quadrats in 1 day. Granted, I was only recording bryophytes and most quadrats had either 1 or 2 species (or sometimes none), so they weren't that demanding. I wanted to do 140 quadrats and had put aside 3 days to do them. By lunchtime I had done about 40 and then by 5 o clock I had done another 40 or so when I remembered that I had to do a talk for farmers about the Hay Time project in Allendale that evening at 7.30. So I thought I might as well do some more for an hour or so to pass the time (even though it was getting quite hard to see after 6).
The plots have not been grazed since winter so I had to keep parting the grass with my hands to search for mosses underneath. So now, I've got repetitive strain injury. My hands were killing me when I got home! This is actually my second moss injury, but that's another story, So then of course I spent the next 4 days painting our new house which didn't really do my hands any favours.
Anyway the survey was worthwhile. The more detailed look confirmed what I found on the first visit except that by doing quadrats I did find several other species that I had not spotted the first time. There are very striking patterns of moss distribution on the different plots subject to differing fertiliser treatment and I've no idea really what lies behind this pattern! It will be very interesting to analyse the data against the other data that have been collected from the plots over the years.
There is also a clear difference between the bryophyte flora on the ridges and on the furrows. There are fewer mosses on the furrows. You might think that the furrows would be damper and this would encourage bryophytes, but maybe there is too much competition from the grasses which are significantly more vigorous in the furrows than on the ridges at this time of year.
I also thought that the 2 most acid plots might have similar bryophyte floras as they are significantly more acid than all of the others. In fact their bryophyte floras were completely different, so I guess the direct influence of the fertiliser must be more significant than the pH. Robert Sheil is now going to analyse the data and hopefully we will be able to get a journal article or 2 out of it. Its amazing how few papers there are on the ecology of bryophytes. The species I found on these plots are all extremely common plants and we know hardly anything about their ecology! Of course the vast majority of ecologists would not recognise them, so that's part of the reason.