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Welcome to our spring newsletter. Read on to find out what a healthy woodland plant community looks like, and why we are asking for your help to find out about Plymouth’s woodland plants.
Also, check out our new film about the project (below), find out about the launch of our monthly Woodland Explorers Club with the National Trust, and see what free training opportunities and ID workshops are coming up!
Take part in Plymouth’s ‘Woodland Plant Trail’ and help conserve threatened woodland plants and wildlife:
A Plymouth-wide survey of our city’s woodland plants will commence in May, with the launch of our Woodland Plant Trail. This is a fun survey, which can help you learn about different woodland plants and how to identify them, and which will also help conserve biodiversity in Plymouth’s woodlands by helping scientists and woodland managers understand more about our woodland plant communities and the conditions different plants grow in.
In particular we are trying to find out how different plants respond to levels of shading by the tree canopy above. This will help us understand how to manage the woods to promote the conservation of native woodland plants, which in turn will help our insect pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and ultimately animals such as birds and bats.
Following the launch of the Plymouth Woodland Project Deadwood Survey, schools can now help with important research into the health of our city's woodland ecosystems. We have produced a 17-page education pack, to support teachers in using woodland activities to teach the science curriculum. In addition to guidance on using the deadwood survey with classes, the pack includes background science, additional activity ideas and worksheets for schools to use. The pack contains guidance for Keys Stage 1, 2, 3, and 4 science (linking to teaching on habitats, ecology, classification, adaptation, food webs, nutrient cycle and sampling techniques) and and also supports numeracy, literacy and the development of scientific enquiry and team work skills.
Deadwood is a very important part of the woodland ecosystem, but sadly many woods do not have enough of it. It can support a huge amount of biodiversity, from decomposers such as fungi, saproxylic beetles, millipedes and woodlice, to plants such as mosses and ferns. In turn, these organisms provide food for other invertebrates, birds and small mammals. Over time decomposers break down the deadwood, returning nutrients and locking carbon into the soil.
By completing this survey you will help us understand how much deadwood there is in Plymouth's woods, and how healthy the woodlands are. This will help woodland managers improve deadwood habitats and conserve biodiversity.
To take part all you need to do is download the survey here and follow the instructions. You can also book our Community Scientist for free, to run a deadwood workshop with your school or group. Get in contact to discuss a booking. You can also take part in the survey at one of our half term events.
We need plenty of data, so if you enjoy doing the survey, please repeat it in different parts of the woods. Thank you for your help!
Welcome to the first newsletter of the Plymouth Woodland Project. Earlier this year we received Heritage Lottery Funding for a two-year project to engage Plymouth communities and schools with the city’s woodlands, to help study their ecology and find out more about how to conserve them for the future. Urban woodlands are important havens for wildlife – and we need your help to understand more about them!
The project got underway at the start of September, and it has been a busy few months! We have been running lots of events and have also put together our first Plymouth-wide woodland survey on Deadwood, and launched our online recording facility so you can send us your woodland wildlife sightings!
Take part in our Deadwood Survey to help conserve woodland ecosystems
A Plymouth-wide survey of our city’s woods will commence in January, with the launch of our Deadwood Survey run in partnership with Buglife. Over the course of the project we will be producing a number of surveys, which will help people learn about woodlands and enable the public and schools to take part in research into how our woodlands are changing.
The ‘Deadwood Survey’ will be launched in January, with two free training sessions, open to all. These will be on Wednesday 29th January 10am-1pm and Saturday 1st February 10am-1pm. Please note this is the same session repeated, and you would not need to attend both. For booking enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This session will equip you to carry out deadwood monitoring in woods in Plymouth, and to run deadwood surveys with other groups such as adult volunteers and schools. You will learn about the fascinating world of deadwood, its importance as a habitat and its role in the woodland ecosystem, as well as how to identify deadwood invertebrates or ‘mini-beasts’.
For schools and clubs: We will also be running free sessions for schools, youth clubs and adult volunteer groups to take part in the survey. If you are interested, please contact Alison.
Deadwood is Dead Good!
Deadwood is a very important part of the woodland ecosystem. Naturally, trees die and drop branches when they are old. Rather than clearing this deadwood away, it is much better that it is left. It provides habitats for all sorts of woodland invertebrates, fungi and plants like mosses. Over time, bacteria, fungi and invertebrates break down the deadwood and return carbon and nutrients to the soil, which help keep the soil healthy for plants to grow. If a wood has plenty of deadwood at different stages of decay this is a sign of a healthy functioning woodland ecosystem. The deadwood survey will help us work out how healthy Plymouth’s woodlands are and where more deadwood habitats are needed.
Online Wildlife Recording - Help us build a better picture of Plymouth’s woodland wildlife:
We have launched an online recording website for you to record any wildlife you spot in Plymouth’s woods. The site is hosted by National Biodiversity Network (NBN) through their irecord facility. This means that any data submitted will feed into national species records, as well as our local ones.
To send in a record, click here (or visit our website and click the ‘submit a record’ link). Please include a photo with your record if you can.
You will also be able to enter results online for the Deadwood Survey, and our future surveys. Your data will then be analysed and passed onto the City’s woodland managers so you can contribute to conservation efforts.
Woodland Management Skills Training
We have teamed up with Work Skills South-West to run a series of accredited courses in woodland conservation management. These courses are free and are aimed at 15-19 year-olds not in education, employment or training.
We are offering a range of Entry Level and Level 1 courses leading to nationally recognised qualifications that will give young people an excellent grounding to go on to further land-management qualifications or apprenticeships.
For details and booking, contact: Steve Avenell, Work Skills South-West: email@example.com / 0845 2235433
We are running free sessions for schools to get involved in their local woods, and to use woods to help teach parts of the science curriculum.
We are available to run sessions for Key Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 science around themes such as food chains and webs, habitats, nutrient cycle, classification, interdependence and adaptation, plant life cycles and scientific enquiry.
Schools can also take part in our woodland surveys and contribute to real scientific research. We can also run twilight sessions for teachers to introduce you to a range of learning materials to use in the woods.
Things to do in the woods:
Click here for handy downloads and activities to support learning and exploration in a woodland setting
We are looking for volunteers to help with the project in the following ways:
· Carry out the woodland surveys
· Help with publicity
· Help delivering sessions with groups
If you would be interested in helping, please get in touch to discuss. Training will be provided. Some activities may require a CRB check.
In spring we will be launching our Woodland Plant Survey in partnership with Plantlife. Woodland plants are very important for insects such as butterflies and bees, and our native woodland flowers are under threat from invasive species and changes in woodland management. This survey will study how woodland plants are affected by light levels in the woods, and will help us understand how diverse our woodlands are.
The Plymouth Woodland Project is run by the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth University, in partnership with Stepping Stones to Nature and Plymouth City Council, the Woodland Trust and the National Trust. We are also working closely with Buglife and Plantlife to develop our surveys.
You can now help us learn more about Plymouth's woodlands by sending in your wildlife sightings! With our new online recording pages, hosted by the National Biodiversity Network on irecord, you can send in your wildlife photos along with any information about the sighting, and we can add it to our database. This will help Plymouth's woodland managers understand more about the biodiversity at their sites, and will also contribute to County and National monitoring projects.
So whether you have seen some interesting fungi, invertebrates, plants, mammals, birds or any other wildlife, please let us know by sending in your sighting here.
If you don't know what it is, you can still submit your photos. You can also post pictures on our Facebook page and we can help you identify your finds, or visit www.ispot.org.uk for help.
Join in a woodland nature trail, tramp through autumn leaves, go on a bug hunt adverture and discover the names of trees!
We will be running half term activities across Plymouth for families and members of the public. All the events are free and there is no need to book. We will be in these woods at the following times. We look forward to seeing you then!
Saturday 26th October in Whitleigh Woods, 11am-3pm (enter the woods from Borrowdale Close and follow the signs)
Tuesday 29th October in Woodland Wood, 11am-2pm (follow signs from the entrance off Ringmore Way)
Thursday 31st October in Southway Valley nature reserve, 11am-2pm (follow signs from Pendeen Crescent)
Friday 1st November in Ham Woods, 11am-2pm (meet at Ham House, off Tewkesbury Close at 11am)
Saturday 2nd November in Plymbridge Woods, 10am-12:30pm (meet at 10am in the National Trust car park)
Last week I spent two days with Longcause Community Special School, facilitating a nature trail in some woods just down the road from the school. Students learnt to identify trees and woodland invertebrates, and discovered that the air quality was good in the woods, by looking at tar spot fungus on sycamore leaves (see www.opalexplorenature.org/airsurvey for more info on tar spot fungus and how it can tell us how clean the air is).
Having developed some woodland ID skills, groups from Longcause School will be helping me to carry out surveys in Hardwick Woods, a Woodland Trust site in Plympton, over the next year. We will be visiting the woods in autumn, spring and summer to study their biodiversity.
Last week the Plymouth Woodland Project showcased some of the city's woodland invertebrate life to school children from across Plymouth and the wider Devon region. Over 1000 school children attended the 'SciTech Showcase' held by Plymouth University in the graduation marquees on Plymouth Hoe. The event is intended to showcase work from across the Faculty of Science and Technology to schools, and promote opportunities for schools to work more closely with the University.
Schools that missed out on the event can find out more about the opportunities on offer to explore Plymouth's woodlands with the Plymouth Woodland Project here. Please get in touch to discuss bookings. All sessions are completely free of charge.