Tuesday, 1 April 2014

New Biodiversity Group in Sidmouth

This month's newsletter from the Vision Group
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Home
prominently features science 
- with the Science Festival programme:
Vision Group for Sidmouth - The 2014 Science Festival Programme now available
- and more information about SidEnergy's projects:
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Sid Valley community receives funding for energy saving measures
More later...

The newsletter announced the launch of a new group centred around biodiversity:

Biodiversity Group

Beach Garden in Sidmouth
A Biodiversity Group is being formed within the Vision Group for Sidmouth to encourage native and local flora and fauna.

The newly formed Biodiversity Group will be supporting projects such as Sidmouth Beach Garden and creating projects such as the promotion of Living Roofs.

This group is in its infancy and anyone interested is warmly invited to contribute to its formation. The first meeting of the group took place in March 2014.  We discussed various projects we could undertake and also various projects we could join!  Keep an eye on future developments!

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) publishes information on their Joint Nature Conservation Committee website about national strategies intended to encourage biodiversity, both marine and land-based.

Vision Group for Sidmouth - Biodiversity Group

With some interesting ideas and ventures already under way...

Wildflower seeds of local provenance to enhance valley flora

Wildflower meadow
Courtesy of www.cotonmanor.co.uk
The Biodiversity group aims to increase diversity of native plants

We have purchased wild flower seeds of local provenance and are going to be raising plants with the aim of increasing the diversity of native plants in and around Sidmouth.
Anybody who would be interested in helping to 'foster' a few seedlings please get in touch. We hope to have a display and seeds available at the next Farmers' Market.

Vision Group for Sidmouth - Biodiversity in Sid Valley

Biodiversity in Sid Valley

River Sid, the Byes
by Norman Hartley
How to nurture many different forms of life...

A small group of Vision Group regulars we met to discuss how we could protect, nurture and grow the variety of natural life in our valley. Sid Valley is lucky to have open spaces, river banks, meadows and woodland where creatures great and small can thrive and plants can flourish. We wanted to work towards increasing the variety of natural life (biodiversity, as it is called), increase awareness of it locally and work together with other local groups with similar aims.
We were surprised to identify 6 or 7 local organisations with interest and activities in this area, and we hope our contribution will help them in their work.
The Science Festival hopes to have a Science Trail focused on nature as an item in its programme, which Jon and Penny are coordinating.

Vision Group for Sidmouth - Biodiversity in Sid Valley

All about Pollen

Pollen grains seen through an electron microscope
Courtesy of Wikimedia
A fascinating insight into what ancient fossilised pollen can tell us

Understanding what happened to plants throughout history might also help us understand how changing conditions on earth impact the future, said Dr Luke Mander.
Facts: every pine tree produces about 5 litres of pollen - the smallest pollen grain is from the Forget-me-knot and the largest from the Pumpkin - pollen is distributed globally and can be found even at the Poles.
Every plant’s pollen is unique and therefore fossilised pollen grains can give us a very good record of the species growing in various places over the millennia. Scientists do this by drilling for core samples of earth's layers and identifying the species they find at various depths. They now have an idea of the expanse of forestation throughout the globe and what grew in these forests. For example, it has been possible to identify the expanse of the ice coverage in Greenland and when it has receded. The rain forests with their myriads of species are also very good places to study pollens and their history.
Scientists can show that when the Earth’s temperature has risen there has been an increase in species and as it has cooled there has been a decrease. However, the biggest problem with a changing climate will be the extinction of species leading to a loss of biodiversity.
Dr Mander is working to design a quantitative method of identifying different grass pollens as there are over 11,000 species! At present this is done by using the human eye - tedious, error prone and slow work - so he is trying to come up with a more reliable computer-based method.
Palynology, he study of pollen grains, has many practical uses. For example, in forensics, it helps to authenticate the source of products like honey. Illegal drugs and their transport routes can be tracked by pollens found in them and their packaging.  Plant breeders can use this information to refine their breeding programmes. And, for hayfever sufferers, the pollen forecast is created for use in conjunction with our weather forecasts.
Next month’s Cafe Scientifique will be on later day than usual at 3pm on Tuesday 22nd April and will be about Fracking. Everyone is welcome at this free event.
- Dr Luke Mander is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Exeter

Vision Group for Sidmouth - All about Pollen

The Natural History of Sid Valley

River Sid, the Byes
by Norman Hartley

The Sid Vale Association is publishing a booklet which takes a seasonal look at the wildlife in Sid Valley

The booklet will be on sale at the Sidmouth Museum and hopes to encourage visitors and residents alike to be motivated and inspired to conserve and explore our very special natural environment.
We hope that a greater understanding of the Sid Valley’s biodiversity will enhance a visitor’s stay and encourage everyone to return to our locality, thereby improving sustainability, which in turn supports our town. We hope that such information will spur our new and current residents to become actively involved in some of our many conservation and environmental activities on offer in Sidmouth.
The Sid Valley has a mild microclimate, which provides shelter to many species of wildlife, especially plants, which can often be seen flowering all year around. The smaller wooded valleys, which carry the Sid’s tributaries - such as the Snod Brook and Roncombe Stream - offer even greater shelter for wildlife with public access along many footpaths and bridleways. We also have lowland heath and coastal habitats, which provide a wide range of wildlife species in a small area. The booklet will cover the whole of the river catchment and will map areas of particular interest for wildlife. Our wide range of local habitats, which are managed as conservation areas, will be included such as The Byes, Fire Beacon Hill and Peaslands Knapp. We will also point out aquatic, hedgebank and other habitats which are often overlooked.
The booklet is due to be completed by the end of 2014 and is a project taken on by Louise Woolley. If anyone has any photographs or information that they think should be considered for inclusion within the booklet then please contact Louise at louisewoolley@hotmail.co.uk.

Vision Group for Sidmouth - The Natural History of Sid Valley

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