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Nature Notes - April 2018

 Nature Notes

 The cold snap of late February and Early March this year has held up the end of winter like a coiled spring.  All of a sudden, the daffodils and crocuses are blooming and the early spring herbs are shooting out of the ground like little green rockets.  Insects also such as bumblebees, flies, butterflies and mosquitos are emerging.  Molehills are springing up like little mountain ranges in the lawns.  Worm casts are also being deployed like the piping of icing on a grassy cake.

Spring can feel like a very personal process of recovery after surviving a chilly dark winter. I am sure it feels the same for other organisms as they celebrate the return of the good weather with their blooms, bounds and beautiful birdsong. Conspicuous at this time is the song of male great tits calling ‘tee-cher tee-cher tee-cher’. This has been called the melt-song as it usually coincides with the melting of snow. In science writing, this change of the seasons is called phenology.

Everything in nature has its time and place. The study of the places where organisms live is called ecology. This word is derived from the Greek words oikos logos meaning home study. In the science of ecology, we study how organisms relate to their home environment. Many of these organisms provide us with essential environmental services, such as bees and other animals pollinating flowers so that the flowers can produce fruit containing viable seeds. Beavers build dams in which they sleep and breed and which also create pools where the water-plants such as water cress and angelica can grow providing food for the beavers and also us humans if we care to collect it. The water that the dams retain can ameliorate flooding further downstream, helping to prevent the misery of our buildings being flooded.

All green plants and algae have chlorophyll in their bodies that generates the oxygen that we breathe. The trillions of bacteria, fungi and other organisms break down dead material generating fertile soil in which new plants grow. The list of the ways in which nature serves our lives is almost endless. We should never forget that and be careful to teach our children how dependant we are on the services that come from the natural world.

Dr.Martyn Stenning