Matt Williams: Careful management can help to reverse UK woodland wildlife declines

Posted: November 20, 2014 by tallbloke in Accountability, Carbon cycle, Energy, flames, government
Willow Tit - RSPB

Willow Tit – RSPB

Sensible stuff from Better by Nature

Woodland wildlife under threat:

But perhaps not a lot of people know that the picture for our woodland wildlife isn’t looking very rosy. Birds like the willow tit, a woodland specialist, have declined by over 80%, making it our fastest declining resident bird. The State of Nature report showed that of the 1256 woodland species we have data for, 60% have declined over the past 50 years, 35% strongly. Some of our woodland birds migrate, so the problems might lie elsewhere, but equally we know that some of the causes of these declines are right here, in UK woodlands.

Wood from our woodlands could provide an important resource for industries like construction and furniture, where the carbon stored in the wood stays locked up for decades, helping the climate.

Wherever possible, wood should be used in this way, then reused, recycled, and finally, used for energy.

But the UK Government is incentivising the combustion of virgin wood for energy in power stations that produce electricity. Subsidies are available to new dedicated biomass power stations that burn wood, or to coal power stations that convert to burning wood.

This means that virgin wood that could otherwise lock carbon up in furniture or construction could end up being burned. Government predict that by 2017 the UK could be burning six times the UK forest harvest, putting extra pressure on UK forests as well as requiring vast quantities of imported wood.

This could see wood going straight from the forest to the power station. It will also mean that large amounts of wood pellets are going to be imported from North America. Again, Government’s own analysis shows that in many cases burning wood straight from the forest in this way, allowing the carbon to escape into the atmosphere, can, in the short term, be worse for climate change than coal!

Because the Government has not put stringent enough sustainability criteria in place either, this means that North American forests and their wildlife are under severe threat from burgeoning demand for wood for electricity. In fact, only 70% of wood that’s burned has to be sustainable for a company to receive subsidies. This could be a disaster for wildlife overseas.

Read the rest

“Matt Williams is a Climate Change Policy Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He has spent a number of years working in the environmental sector, as a nature reserve warden and in helping to set up the UK Youth Climate Coalition. He has just returned from 12 months living and working in the Indonesian jungle. In his spare time he is a wildlife photographer and helps to run A Focus on Nature, a youth conservation organisation. Follow him @mattadamw.”

  1. Joe Public says:

    Ah, the RSPB.

    The organisation whose Head of Energy and Climate Change considered birds & wildlife were intelligent enough to avoid bird chompers whose tips were moving at in excess of 100mph, but were dumb enough to be at risk from static gas-fracking pads & infrastructure:

    “Harry Huyton is head of energy and climate change at the RSPB.

    He told BBC News: “We have found that there are serious potential risks to the environment from fracking.

    “There are risks associated with using lots of water, with causing the accidental contamination of water, but also from the infrastructure that is required by the industry. This could mean lots of well pads all around the landscape. All of these could have an impact on wildlife.”

  2. w.w.wygart says:

    Generally I very sympathetic to the people of the UK and the crazy energy jam they have gotten themselves into; I hate to see people suffering even if its self-inflicted, however, this is one case where I get a little miffed. No you may not burn our forests to provide electricity for your homes. What are you going to do when we succeed in preventing our knuckle-headed cousins down south from exporting our forests to you?

    One irony, here in the States, is that the spread of our style of suburbia seems to have a net positive impact on wildlife in New England. What was once primordial forest, turned into farmland, has now returned to a new type of suburban forest that has many times the length of openings and edges than in the old primordial forest – which is where all of the wildlife likes to hang out. Not to mention all of the suburbanites who actively feed the wildlife year round from food grown elsewhere. Of course a lot of our stray pets are now feeding the local population of predators as well. What’s interesting is that in pre-colonial times the Red Indians [as you folks would say] had a pretty active system of forest management in New England that accomplished a similar effect. That of course changed when New Englanders got rid of the Indians then replaced the forest with farmland and used the trees to build their homes and heat their cities. It’s interesting to see what’s gone around come back around.


  3. so the decline in the willow tit population in the UK is because of the imports of wood chips from the USA? Did Dr Mann write this?

  4. tom0mason says:

    I wonder if the numpties at the UK Forestry and their 2010 drought mitigation program went ahead. Sure there is a lot of wait and see stuff in the report, but I wonder, given how very pro ‘Climate Change’ these forestry guys are, if they have changed much in the UK’s forests, and it is now impacting on the wildlife.

    Climate change is a major issue for forestry, globally. In parts of
    England the climate will become warmer and drier, and so it is
    imperative that vulnerable sites are identified and targeted for
    adaptive action. The UKCP09 projections provide information
    from which risk analyses can be developed to show the timing,
    degree of exposure and risk of serious climate impacts.


    “England the climate will become warmer and drier” how’s that working for you?

  5. Konrad says:

    O/T, but UKIP wins again and no post?? Wet Tory’s smashed, Labor into the rough and LimpDems losing their deposit…

    Down at the boozer celebrating Rog?

  6. All we see in North Bristol these days are house sparrows, hedge sparrows, occasional blackbirds and the robin. Rarely long tailed tits, we used to see lots of finches, field fares, starlings and others but sadly not now. Unfortunately we haven’t seen a hedgehog for 3 years and our pond seems to have lost most of its frogs, wonder why?

  7. Allan M says:

    I don’t suppose it could be anything to do with the big increase in raptors. No, of course not. The sparrowhawks and hen harriers and their friends have all promised to turn vegetarian in return for the RSPB’s protection.