Wood Habitats on Campus

We love to create wood habitats on campus as they are essential for wildlife and provide food and shelter for countless tiny invertebrates.

The habitat piles in these photos are made from the dead branches of the trees they surround, so any fungi or minibeasts are still near their habitat.

So if you see log piles on our grounds, we haven’t forgotten to clear away debris following tree works …………………… we are doing our bit for nature and the environment!

Dealing with Ash Dieback at the University

Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is a fungal disease first recorded by the Forestry Commision in 2006 becoming prominent in the South East of England in 2012.

We have confirmations on Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) specimens within our University since 2018, as has been the case for other well monitored sites in Devon and Cornwall.

The infection is permanent with no control and, although mostly terminal, there is a high degree of variability with respect to the seriousness and speed of the symptoms. We are gifted with a high number of people exploring, enjoying and being amongst our grounds and any sign of symptom is considered with great caution so physical management of these trees today and in the future is a certainty.

The dilemma amongst the Grounds team is that we know how valuable Ash is to biodiversity as a habitat. It hosts Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), Tawny Owls (Strix aluco), Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and the team favourite the Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), all for nesting. The lichens and moss which grow freely are a food source for caterpillars.

We are able to balance these interests and find opportunity where people are safe, and friends of other species can continue to share the space together.

The solution we have employed, which you can see in the photo below, is to carry out a veteranisation process on a tree. The major limbs are completely removed until the crown has gone and there is only a trunk left standing. The tree is then ringbarked which involves removing the living tissue from around the trunk. With the xylem and phloem severing the plants’ ability to transport water and nutrients, the tree will die and decay and this breaking down process will become host to insect species.

Importantly as the trunk is short and wide with developed buttress roots, there is no expectation that this tree will fall.

The top of the trunk can now be coronet pruned. This describes a technique that aims to replicate the natural fracturing effect seen after a limb failure, where insect species can easily reside within and rainfall can sit and gather amongst the dead wood.

Trunk segmentations have been cut out, hollowed and an entrance point made. These have been re-attached to the trunk around all four compass points as a future bird nesting habitat.

For anyone that would like to visit this work its location can be found here – http://ex.ac.uk/veteran-ash-specimen

For the future, the best course of action is regularly monitoring the species we care for. After all a minority will also be genetically tolerant and that stock of trees amongst our collection will be vital for the long-term future of the woodlands and specimens here when we begin to repopulate.

 

Diseased tree upcycled into wildlife habitat tree stump and bird boxes

Unfortunately a diseased Ash tree behind the IAIS Building on Streatham Campus has had to be removed, but our Arb Team were keen to use this as an opportunity to help wildlife and increase wildlife habitats on campus, in keeping with our biodiversity and sustainability work practices.

It is now a wildlife habitat high stump which will harbour and benefit insects and wildlife for years to come and the team have also carved bird boxes into the trunk.

Great job team!

More Wow Wildflowers!

The wildflower areas at St Luke’s Campus are looking fantastic.

Wow Wildflowers!

The wildflowers at the Reed Hall beds are in flower and looking glorious.

Last year we trialled having wildflowers instead of the customary formal planting in these beds and they proved so popular with everyone and the bees, butterflies and insects that we’ve done it again!

Winter Bird Survey Highlights

The results of the winter bird survey carried out by an independent consultant on our campuses have been received and we wanted to share the highlights:

Streatham Campus recorded its highest number of birds on campus since 2013/14 with 1,392 birds.

This represented 36 different bird species, 24% of which are listed on the the RSPB Red/Amber List; suggesting that the campus continues to be an important habitat for threatened species including the Grey Wagtail, Thrush, Sparrow and Redwing.

Grey Wagtail

Thrush

Sparrow

Redwing

St Luke’s Campus, although smaller than Streatham Campus, recorded 290 birds; up from the 2013/14 baseline of 236 birds and continuing an upward trent.

Out of the 19 species recorded, 6 species are listed on the RSPB Red/Amber List including the Starling which had not been recorded at Streatham Campus.

Starling

It’s great to see that the work of the Grounds Team, to manage the environment and use maintenance techniques that consider and promote biodiversity and habitat conservation, continues to deliver positive benefits for wildlife.

New Environmental Foamstream System

The University’s Grounds Team have purchased a new piece of equipment with the environment in mind. The water based foamstream system deals with moss, algae and weeds without the use of chemicals.

It is proving particularly useful in the historic listed landscape of Reed Hall as there is no risk of damaging the stonework.

The photos below show some of our staff using the new foamstream equipment and the difference achieved in the treated areas.

Grounds staff using the new foamstream equipment

Reed Hall gardens – before the foamstream application

Reed Hall gardens – after the foamstream application

Reed Hall stonework – before the foamstream application

Reed Hall stonework – after the foamstream application

 

Pumpkins!

Wow what beauties………………

We are very proud of these pumpkins we have grown on campus as a green initiative trial to help with weed control at our green waste site.

Not only has the trial been successful, but we can now have a pumpkin carving competition for Halloween!

 

 

Celebrating Green Flag Award 2019/20!

The Grounds Team have proudly celebrated the successful re-achievement of  the prestigious Green Flag Award for 2019/20 for our beautiful Streatham Campus and St Luke’s Campus.

The Award is the mark of a quality park or green space which has achieved the international standards for open space excellence and reflects the hard work that our dedicated team put into maintaining and nurturing our grounds to the highest standards.

Streatham Campus receives the award for the eighth consecutive year and St Luke’s Campus for the sixth consecutive year.

Bees’ Needs Week 8th-14th July 2019

Bees and other pollinators are vital to growing lots of our favourite foods and for plants to flourish in our fields and gardens.

It is Bees’ Needs Week from 8th to 14th July 2019 and whether you are a farmer, a gardener or a manager of urban or amenity spaces, there is something you can do to help support our valuable insect pollinators.

There are five simple actions you can take to help pollinators and make sure their populations are sustained:

  1. Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees – our mature and exotic plants give long flowering periods for bees and insects.
  2. Let your garden grow wild – we have wildflower meadows located throughout our campuses to encourage biodiversity.
  3. Cut your grass less often – we ensure refuge strips are left uncut along campus watercourses to encourage wildlife.
  4. Don’t disturb insect nest and hibernation spots – we practise sympathetic maintenance regimes and have installed bug hotels and insect palaces throughout our campuses.
  5. Think carefully about whether to use pesticides – we use Integrated Pest Management to minimise the use of pesticides.