Sunday we had a field trip to BiFor FACE (Birmingham Institute for Forest Research Free- Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment), a facility that is measuring how woodlands will react to climate change. This is a fascinating project and you can learn more about it by following this link:
It is a series of experimental stations, where lots of different measurements are taking place, and where trees are subjected to higher levels of CO2 in order to see what will happen to them and their surroundings, as our atmosphere changes.
Monday was themed around tree management and health. One thing that stuck in my mind, from a presentation by Dr Henrik Sjorman , was that there is a tree called a Silver Lime (Tilia tomentosa) that has a silver coloured underside to its leaves. In very warm weather they turn their leaves over to act as reflectors, and reduce the temperature under the crown- damned clever eh?
The day was topped off with a fantastic pest and disease walk around the campus with Dr Ana Perez- Sierra from Forest Research and local Plant Health Officer Barnaby Wilder. We saw examples of, amongst other things, Chestnut Bleeding Cankers, Phytopthora ramorum and Acute Oak Decline (see images below)
Nice for us to see as practitioners, but bad for the poor old trees and a major headache for the groundstaff at Keele!
The second day was very different, in that many presenters worked with trees, but not necessarily as Arboriculturalists. Presentations from Architects and people involved in managing the railways, highways and HS2 gave an interesting sideways slant on proceedings. In the evening we had a formal dinner, and various awards presented to Arb students, and members of the Arb community, followed by a talk from James Ogilvie, who had climbed the seven highest peaks in the world for charity - a very late night, and a slow start to the final day!!
Wednesday saw sessions on Arb practice and risk management, with Professor Lynne Boddy giving us a rousing talk on fungal interactions, and Brian Crane telling us the sad story of the fight of the people of Sheffield to save their street trees, a fight they, sadly, seem to have lost.
I never leave a conference without my head buzzing, and there is always lots of information to absorb and reflect on. What always comes out of these sessions is the necessity for people to communicate, and for information to be shared between, scientists, practitioners, students and the public. Trees are vital to our health and wellbeing for many, many reasons including air quality, water quality, temperature control, and producing the air we breathe- quite a big remit! We need to look after them, and understand that they a vital part of the earth we very much take for granted, and not just a pretty piece of decoration in the street or our garden. By collaborating, and taking positive action, we can ensure that the trees that we see around us, will still be there for the next generation.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in”