BatChat

Woodland Symposium

February 17, 2021 Bat Conservation Trust Season 2 Episode 22
BatChat
Woodland Symposium
Show Notes Transcript

S2E22 The 2020 Woodland Symposium was hosted by BCT, six years after the inaugural symposium. It bought together landowners, ecologists, bat workers and professionals from the woodland and forestry industry to listen to talks from 15 speakers covering research, knowledge updates and case studies on woodlands and bats. We hear from three of those speakers as well as a couple of the 11 students who had been given a place at the conference by bursaries offered by the Back from the Brink project (check out episode 2 for more on that!).


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Steve Roe:

Hello and welcome to this week's BatChat from the Bat Conservation Trust bringing you the stories from the bat conservation movement. I'm Steve Roe and back in November BCT hosted the second woodlands symposium six years after the inaugural symposium. It brought together landowners ecologists that workers and professionals from the woodland and forestry industry to listen to talk from 15 speakers covering research, knowledge updates and case studies on woodlands and bats. We hear from three of those speakers in this episode, as well as from a couple of the 11 students who had been given a place at the conference by bursaries offered by the back from the brink projects, check out Episode Two for more on that. We start off with Gareth Fisher from the RSPB discussing the woodland wildlife toolkit. And so, Gareth, can you introduce yourself to the listener? So what is your job entail? How did you find yourself working at the RSPB?

Gareth Fisher:

Okay, so hello, my name is Gareth Fisher, and I'm an ecologist for the RSPB. The team that I work in provide ecological advice and support to our Reserve staff and also known to our off reserve projects as well. Within the team, I'm the lead on wouldn't habitats and species. And I'm also the chair of the RSPBs woodland nature recovery group so I work with colleagues across the whole organisation whose focus is on woodlands. And when I'm not in woodlands, I spend a lot of time usually apart from obviously over the last few months in north Wales because I do a lot of work with the reserve team in north Wales. I came to work for the RSPB actually suddenly occurred to me those 20 years ago, just over that I did my first contract. And that was a summer project looking at lapwing over on in west Wales, and then went back about two years after that and had I think it's about two and a half, three years of sort of winter and summer contracts pretty much across the whole of the Britain, which was excellent, and then came to the ecology team in 2006. And I've been with them ever since

Steve Roe:

roughly how big is the ecology team at RSPB, then

Gareth Fisher:

it's it's about 20 people,

Steve Roe:

so presumably they're not just doing birds, they are doing all aspects of ecology, how are they?

Gareth Fisher:

Yeah, we look at everything basically. Obviously, if you're going to have a good bird population, you fundamentally need a good ecosystem. So you know, we advise on priority species, and we've got a whole load of priority species and very important, SSSI features, things like that, that cover invertebrates and plants. And obviously, we have quite a lot of work. I think we do have all of the UK bat species on our reserves in one place or another. We've got a couple that have pretty high numbers and it's a 90% of all the bat species that we have on them. So we have to take everything into account when we're definitely not just a virtual organisation really we do cover everything

Steve Roe:

great stuff. So we've just had you today is part of the woodlands symposium talking about the woodland wildlife toolkit. So can you just give us an introduction to it and what who is who is involved in it?

Gareth Fisher:

It was it basically came about. It was developed by a consortium of organisations led initially by the RSPB, but also involving Bat Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Forestry Commission, Natural England plant life, the Woodland Trust and the silver Foundation. And it's basically it's an online resource for the conservation management of woodland has a lot of information about different woodland types, Woodland species, and their ecology and everything that you need to know about them to be able to manage your woodlands appropriately. So it really started about 10. The while 11 years ago, actually now, and it was initially a discussion between Forestry Commission down in the southwest and a colleague of mine Helen Booker, Forestry Commission were interested in discussing wooden birds after the repeat woodland bird survey, which was published a year or two before and then that conversation developed with another colleague of ours, Nigel Symes, but it's still very much had a Southwest's focus, and then other organisations, such as Butterfly Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, all kind of joined in that conversation and they were called basically came together and were called the Southwest woodland wildlife initiative, really aimed at trying to get more woodland management for declining species. And then that evolved with the RSPB taking a bit of the lead. And the idea for the toolkits. Then eventually emerged from those discussions and then following that the group decided that We really needed to broaden it out to a national remit to save repeating the efforts elsewhere. So that really was a sort of an overarching thing, rather than each sort of region or whatever, doing something slightly different. And Natural England and Forestry Commission funded the early stages. And then we also brought in other experts for the other tax groups and the silver foundation were brought in to really help develop the website and the RSPB and wouldn't trust it have funded that part of it and sort of look after the website for us. And so overall, it did it took about a decade to go from the early discussions to the launch in early 2019.

Steve Roe:

And how's the toolkit for and why would they use it?

Gareth Fisher:

So the toolkit is for pretty much anyone who's interested in Woodland habitats species or wetland or managing their woodlands for wildlife. And they would use it principally because it's just a really good one stop shop for a huge amount of information on the on the woodland habitats on the species, their ecology, the threats to them, different management options as to how you can try and mitigate that. So but then there is a huge amount of information in there.

Steve Roe:

And how will that tool help landowners manage their own woodlands.

Gareth Fisher:

So it will help because they if they don't really know their woodlands, it provides them with an opportunity to search the toolkit, find out what which are the priority species might be there, it doesn't definitely tell you that what is absolutely there, but it uses the data to find out what might be there, what they might need to think about to make sure that they're not making things worse for those species, but hopefully how to actually proactively managing it in a positive manner. And benefit those those rare species. It provides some downloadable information about their ecology, again, their threats and the management options. And the really good thing is is that it provides an opportunity to have a look at all the different species that you might have, and shows you how you can do management to benefit all of them. So you're not literally just looking at one species alone, it will show you which management options will benefit a lot of the of the things that might be present, and which ones you might need to do more particular one sort of management interventions, just one species or the other. So it does show you that synergy across the groups.

Steve Roe:

And I mean, I used the toolkit a few weeks ago and looked at Woodlands near me So unsurprisingly, looked at the bat bit so I know where the bat data comes from, but where does where do all the different bits of data come from? And is the risk that species could be missed, given that it relies on the larger record centres, such as the National bat monitoring programme rather than local record centres such as bat groups?

Gareth Fisher:

Yeah, so the, for quite a lot of the groups we got data directly from the the taxes specialist organisation so yes, that Conservation Trust data comes provided the data for the for the bat species which came through as distribution and polygons for each species. The British trust for ornithology we use their two kilometre square tetrad summary data from the last breeding bird Atlas, to to get that information in for for all of the key species and then Butterfly Conservation provided actual grid references buffered around by a two kilometre square for both the butterflies and the moth species. So we are using national data as much as we can. And then there's a whole load of other organisations that have provided information we do get quite a lot from the NBN. I think realistically, there is always a risk that we might be missing species. But we are basically working with the best information we possibly can. It's always good to be able to go out or get people out to go and actually have a look at look at your words and actually see what is actually there rather than just relying on the distribution data. And we would hope that you know, even with local recorders that that would get fed into those. Those record centres to help boost that national picture as well. So, as well as just getting more of an infant more information, if you did could engage with your local bank group to get that information. But if then if that could also be then fed into the The local, the national or regional national record centres, then that all helps to build that picture and make sure that the data that we are using is up to date and as accurate as possible. And that is one of the things that we know that we are going to need to do going forward is to make sure that we are improving the you know, the timeliness or the the up to date pneus of the data that's in there and where he can improve that resolution as well.

Steve Roe:

And I guess like you say, you've you've been able to work with some record centres not giving you detailed grid references. So I guess if people are wanting to share data at a lower resolution, they could do that, I guess. Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Great stuff. So finally, what's the long term vision for the toolkit them.

Gareth Fisher:

So in the long run, we're aiming to, as I said, we are aiming to keep it up to date to make sure that it is all the information there is, is as up to date as possible. And that will include the data, the biological data, when we get more surveys, with all the research that's going on. And obviously, we've listened to quite a lot today on the various projects that around that work and research into that that's been amazing. But where we are finding out that more information, getting a clearer idea about which management interventions might work best for a particular species will update those management options and all of that side of things as well. The key thing is to really try and promote it to get the message out there that this is available. And encourage people to try it out. Learn how to use it give us feedback to so that we can improve and refine things as best as possible. And we are looking to develop a mobile app so that it's even more accessible and that people could be out in the field and have this information, actually with them whilst they're out and walking around.

Steve Roe:

Great stuff. Well, then we'll put a link to the toolkit on on the show notes as well. Gareth, thank you very much. That's great.

Gareth Fisher:

Thanks very much.

Steve Roe:

You can check out the woodland wildlife toolkit for yourself to discover what woodland wildlife lives near you. The link is in the show notes. So Morgan, you're Morgan Hughes. You're from BrumBats, and you've you've been granted a place here for a bursary. So do you just want to tell us a bit about yourself and what course you're studying at university?

Morgan Hughes:

Yeah, I'm, I'm, I said based in Birmingham, the back country, I've been on a number of robots for scarily over 15 years. And but I'm currently doing a PhD at the University of Wolverhampton looking at the assemblages and movements of urban bats.

Steve Roe:

How does that link in with the symposium Why have you come along to this today then? Because

Morgan Hughes:

a lot of the bats that I'm looking at are in sort of woodlands in the urban fringe. So like the Greenbelt, basically, the what what's left of it before all get gets rounded off and released. I'm looking at the bat assemblages of woodlands. And whether and how easily they are crossing things like the M6 and M5 different different parts of the conurbation.

Steve Roe:

And is that the main part your page? Or is that just one very small part of it?

Morgan Hughes:

Well, there's three bits. One is the assemblages and how much maybe the biometrics vary from from the married area. Another is looking at specifically adult Benton's and how they're using canals to get through and over the motorway barriers. And another is going to be looking at relatedness. So we're taking oral swabs and looking at DNA, and comparing whether whether certain species are more genetically isolated than others because of the urban barriers.

Steve Roe:

Great stuff. So we've come we're just about to come to the end of the first day and it's a two day conference, what were you hoping to learn at the start of the conference?

Morgan Hughes:

Well, I have kind of how different things are both days really. So today's one I was really looking forward to to the the one about modifying acoustic lures because obviously, huge part of my research is based on whether I actually catch bats and whether I catch the species that specifically that I'm after so um, that was that was really interesting. And then tomorrow I'm really interested in looking at the veterinary stuff but also the climate change stuff.

Steve Roe:

So what have you what what was the most interesting thing from today? them? What What have you which talk Have you absorbed the most info from

Morgan Hughes:

definitely. David Hills talk about the lures. That was I found it really interesting like looking at looking at the different graphs and shame on me. I hadn't quite read that that part of British Ireland bats. It was sitting on my desktop and I'm like, wait a minute. This is familiar. And I looked at that, but yeah, it's it's fascinating, just how, like the different different species are more reactive. So like the brand long-eared seem to be really like predominantly, were attracted to their own calls, whereas some other species are a little more Catholic about what they want. They're attracted to interesting

Steve Roe:

So what would you say to people who are thinking about going on to Bat Conservation Trust conference, but have never been to one before?

Morgan Hughes:

Oh, I think just dive in. I think that's like I went to national back conference in 2004. Having not knowing nothing about bats at all, I just taken on a job for the Wildlife Trust. And I got taken to, I got sent, sent off to, to national back conference and then just came back completely hooked. Yeah, I think it's a passion of people. And the kind of Everyone is so nice. And everyone knows each other respects each other so much. And it's just such a great opportunity to network and meet people and learn stuff. And it's

Steve Roe:

Great stuff. Morgan Hughes. Thank you very much. great. Vikki Bengtsson has been artificially veteran rising trees in a number of countries including England, Sweden and Norway. And in this next segment, she explains why and gives us the results of her extensive research. So Vicki, you've just given a talk at the second day of the woodland symposium being organised by BCT. Do you just want to introduce introduce yourself to the listeners?

Vikki Bengtsson:

I'm an ecologist and I have worked for about 30 years with nature conservation. And I've got a particular interest in old trees, veteran trees, ancient trees, wood pastures. And I know live in Sweden and I still work in the UK.

Steve Roe:

so before we get on to the talk, you've just done and the veteranisation techniques that you're using, how would veteranisation of trees naturally happen now in our in the countryside?

Vikki Bengtsson:

Well, trees age, and as thee age fungi play a greater part in the process. So for example, Heartwood decay is one of the most important and valuable habitats that old trees have. And we don't fully understand the mechanisms by which that happens. But we think that as well as the trees age, the heartwood is no longer functioning and funky, then take advantage of that and decay it. And the same happens if you've got a dead branch, for example, funghi will decay, the wood that's no longer functional. And that process creates all the things we're interested in, for all sorts of species that live on or in and with all trees.

Steve Roe:

And I guess it depends on the tree species. But roughly how long does that process take in a tree's life to become a veteran tree,

Vikki Bengtsson:

there is actually a really good paper by oak, whereby they've shown at 200 years 50% of oaks have some kind of cavity 300 years 100% of the yields have cavities. But I don't know of any other studies that show of other tree species, but my guess would be that birch obviously, it happens much earlier in the process. We know with older for example, the develop cavities at a relatively young age, and it's often overlooked as a tree species that's got interesting cavities, and then pain, you know, gild, your guess is as good as mine. So it varies a lot, really. And I don't know if we've got information about it either, really, to be honest.

Steve Roe:

So what are the techniques that you guys have been using to artificially create veteranisation?

Vikki Bengtsson:

Well, I've talked in my talk, I talked about five different techniques that we've used in a big trial. But I have a menu, which is more like 15 Different techniques, more or less different, creating lightning strikes, creating kind of slips, if you like, in the tree, topping them, you know, fracturing branches, doing flush cuts, and that one's one that people absolutely think is awful given that in their kind of 70s and 80s. It was the it was the way to do tree surgery and became absolutely not the way to do tree surgery. But actually, we've got really good data on flushcuts developing to key so it's a it's a brilliant technique to use. But creating cavities, I think is the one that's been most interesting to me. And we think that's what's providing us with the best outcomes. Well, I suppose and the cavities are the things that also take the longest time to create.

Steve Roe:

So I mean, why, why is what's where the need for this come from? What's the advantage of doing these artificial techniques?

Vikki Bengtsson:

Well, where do you start? I mean, for the last, what, 200 years, we've created a landscape that's pretty intensive in agriculture, forestry, and our natural habitats have reduced and reduced and reduced so they're now fragmented in small isolated pockets. We've often got, you know, with pastures that are either overgrown, or or very few old trees left. And it seems to me like it's a no brainer, we need to do something. If we do nothing, we know what's going to happen. We're going to lose species as those old trees die. And we have to wait to 300 years, as I've said, with oak that it takes for those cavities to form and if you've got an age gap, then we can't afford to wait. So I would say that it's an essential additional To in our need to conservation management toolbox to help us bridge some of those gaps that we've created due to the use of our landscape over the last 150 years. And that we should use the resources available to us. So the example that I gave in my talk was when you've got an old tree, say that's three 400 years old, that's got overgrown, because of lack of grazing, and you've got trees that are, say, 50 to 70 years old that you would want to remove anyway, to create more light for that old tree. Well, instead of removing the trees, if we damage them a bit, instead, they won't compete quite as strongly with the old trees, you see, do that plus, potentially, and hopefully, we will also create some habitats that you otherwise find in the old trees in a younger tree. So that's the whole, you know, the whole idea, really.

Steve Roe:

So just before we get on to the results, whereabouts if you've been trialling this then

Unknown:

Well, I started with the Hatfield Forest, National Trust site in Essex. And I know that there's been some done at Windsor, and Lynn Body has been doing some of her work at Windsor and Stabernach that Burnham Beeches have done some, but the big trial that we've done is in Sweden, Norway, and in England, we've got three sites in England, one in Norway and 16 in Sweden. So mostly, I think that I know of anyway, has been in England, and in Sweden, where it's really taken off. But in Lithuania, they've been doing some work for the hermit beetle species. And in Italy, they've done some work on red oak, which is an invasive species. So they've been better now using those trees as an alternative to removing them. And in Australia, they've been doing some work on virtualization as well. But me, I've been, I think, limited if you'd like to to England, Sweden and Norway.

Steve Roe:

I mean, I feel like that's quite enough, is it? And gotten it. So has it been successful? You know, what, what are the results shown? Does it work?

Unknown:

The short answer to that is yes. And I think as I said, also, in my talk that I've had, you know, someone's sitting on my shoulder saying, Are these just really expensive bird boxes? You know, and I think it's a very fair question. But I think I feel confident now that we're on the right track, that we the work we're doing is mimicking natural cavities. Because we understand tree physiology. So we understand that it's about creating dysfunction in the tree, that then allows the fungi to do what they need to do, which in turn then allows other species to come in. So the evidence we've got from looking at the trees after eight years, gives me a pretty strong steer that we're on the right track. I mean, firstly, we've had 70% of the cavities we've created have had birds nesting in the leave in turn bird nesting material, dead birds, egg shells, and we know that that attracts other species, then we've also found live bats, we've also found remains from bats. So insect remains from growing long years, and obviously, bat droppings as well, massively under recorded, I would think, because I'm not a bad person, and we visited those trees on one occasion. So, you know, they're bound to be under recorded, then also, tree ants, which I think are one of these kind of, you know, crucial keystone species in cavity ecology and the key processes. So the fact that we've got all of that happening, gives me much more confidence in the technique, and also which techniques. So the horse damage that we've created, which is the kind of exposed wood at the base of the trunk or getting the key happening in those. And I think that's the bulk rot, if you like that, that we're out there, we're after there. And that's beginning to show signs of that happening. And then the the cavities that we've created, are actually showing also that they're being used by the species that are of interest to us. So yes, I think some of the other techniques where we've been like ring barking branches, for example, I don't think I would continue with because we looked at the trees, the control trees, and they are creating dead branches of the same size, in the same timeframe. So but that's useful knowledge as well. So I think that's what I would say that the, we now can kind of narrow in a little bit more into which of the techniques are giving us the results that we want, or alternatively, that help us understand which techniques to choose, depending on what our target groups are.

Steve Roe:

I found it quite interesting looking at the photos that you had was the when they're quite fresh cuts, quite they're quite some people say quite ugly, you know, you've got breast cancer marks, but actually, it didn't take many years for the tree to naturally heal and sort of smooth things over did it?

Unknown:

It's amazing, actually. I mean, trees don't heal in that sense, but they do respond amazingly well. Erm, because we're working with young trees, that's particularly obvious. And I think what was very interesting is the the nest boxes that we did in this trial in 2012. They looked like letter boxes when we were finished. And as you say, they kind of looked a bit odd. But now when when you go, I mean, people don't see them. You know, I walk around with people, and I make that she's done that she's done that, can you not see that cavity? And it's almost like, Oh, yeah. You know. So that's the other thing, that's a real benefit in that it makes it easier to, like, sell it in to people who may not be professionals working with this, but even professionals actually, but you know, it's a, it's a good way to show well, actually, if you do this carefully, it looks very much like a natural feature. I mean, particularly woodpecker holes, I defy anyone to come and look at some of those trees with me who don't know, to say that's done with a chainsaw, because it's hard enough for me, and I know which trees have been done, and they've got tags on, and I've taken photographs before, you know, so I think it's a it's a real positive outcome.

Steve Roe:

And for anyone who's worried You did this to a vast number of trees, and you only had a very small percentage of them actually died in years, it was less than 2% of the trees that actually died from it.

Vikki Bengtsson:

And that was a real surprise to me, actually, to be honest, because I thought even some of the control trees would have died in that time, because, you know, we've got very little data on tree mortality of oak in more like wood pasture situations, we've got good forestry data, but not good data on trees, and we passed a situation so I expected more trees to have died than that, to be honest, even if a couple I mean, a couple of them are, are not none of them are control trees, which is interesting in its own right. All of them are trees that were treated, but some of them are trees, where we've just remembered the brand. So I don't really think that has anything to do with the treatment that we did. So yeah, few trees. And that was the idea. I hope that they wouldn't die. Expect some to, obviously, but of other reasons. But yeah.

Steve Roe:

So if people want to find out more about your work, where's the best place for them to go?

Vikki Bengtsson:

Sadly enough, that's a bit more tricky, because I've been a bit rubbish at publishing stuff. Because you know, I've got a day job. And I hope next year that we'll get something out, you know, a full publication on the results that we've done. But I did write an article in conservation land management in 2015, which outlined all the techniques, the menu that I mentioned, and I hope next year to do something more, but we have got paper being published about the funky data that I talked about to which is impressed actually, so that'll be out soon. If you go to the vet set website, there's a nice little film there about virtualization.

Steve Roe:

Vikki, thank you very much.

Vikki Bengtsson:

Thank you.

Steve Roe:

And in the next series of BatChat, we'll be revisiting the work of Jim Mulholland when I'll be joining him out in the field observing some of those techniques that Vikki just described taking place. Rob Coventry is the forestry Commission's woodland resilience officer. And here we discuss the potential future outcomes of ash die back in the UK, and what it might mean for bats. So we're just in the lunch break of the second day of the woodland symposium and Rob Coventry's. Can you join me, Rob, do you just wanna introduce yourself to the listeners and what your job title is and what you actually do for for the day job?

Rob Coventry:

Yeah, hi, Steve. Thanks. So my my job title is woodland resilience officer as a new post created by the Forestry Commission a couple of years ago. And the kind of the main brief is to help the woodland sector respond to ash die back and and increase the resilience of their woodlands kind of simultaneously. Primarily in the SouthEast of England, that's my patch, but I also feed into international national guidance and policy on those sort of topics.

Steve Roe:

So your talk was on on the ash dieback the Chalara pandemic, if you like that was seen in the UK at the moment. Can you just give give us a crash course if there's such thing in Ash dieback? What is it how it arrived what the known spread is so far?

Unknown:

Sure. So it was first found in the UK in 2012. And, but subsequently, we've we've worked out that it was here since at least 2005. And probably much earlier. It was first discovered in Europe in 2006. I think it was or at least the mid 2000s. And they're they've worked out it's been there since since the early 1990s At least. So it's a it's a it's an invasive fungal pathogen that it's originated from East Asia where it kind of lives on the on the Fraxinus so the ash species over there and it causes them a lot less less damage over there actually so anyway, it's moved around on winds blown spore masses it over winters in the leaf litter of the ash and the fruits from there and then it moves on the wind data to the to infect the foliage above Where the cycle then kind of continues or it can blow a bit further on the wind. So the idea is that it arrived here, it actually arrived here both on imported planting stock. So there were some isolated outbreaks in different parts of the country, but also, most likely on windblown spore masses across across from the continent as well, which would have hit particularly the southeast first and East Anglia. And that's why the disease's, been slightly more and more progressed in those areas.

Steve Roe:

So can you describe the likely effects of Chalara or ash dieback in the future? What what do you think our landscapes will look like if we got an idea of that?

Rob Coventry:

Yeah, well, I mean, no one no one's entirely certain exactly how it will play out in UK conditions. We've we've taken a bit of a, you know, we can take advice from Europe, where they're a few year years ahead of us. Kind of anecdotal evidence suggests there's a 10 year lag period between early signs of infection and widespread mortality. And so as I said, in the southeast, where we're kind of well past that already, and we're seeing this widespread mortality, other parts of the parts of the country may be a few years behind, but it can pick up quite quickly. So I do think right now is certainly the southeast, it's sort of South West, it's starting to hit that area a lot, a lot harder. And I think other parts of the country too, and that will continue kind of North and, and west. In terms of the kind of local, the more local impact, I think that varies depending on the on the landscape setting, and the density of ash. So the worst impacts are likely to be in ash, dense woodlands, where conditions are really good for the fungus, and it can really can build up that kind of that kind of volumes of sporulating material in the leaf litter. There, yeah, the mortality levels are going to be going to be quite high. It's again, it's very difficult to predict what they will be outside of woodlands, and especially farther and further away from high densities of ash, the trees may still show some signs of infection, but there is a possibility that they will they will kind of survive indefinitely and tolerate the disease because it's it's kind of a it's the compound stresses on the tree, combined with the kind of the pressure from the fungus and outside of woodlands, that that pressure will be will be dramatically less. Overall, Richard bugs who's who's done a lot of work on the genetics of the disease and of ash at Q and the Queen Mary, I think it is, he suggested that it's likely that fit, we will lose 50% of our ash trees, which is obviously a very high amount, but he can't confidently say, say more than that. From where

Steve Roe:

I am in Derbyshire, quite a lot of some of the the important habitats are are within us woodlands, particularly up in the Peak District where we've got lots of underground sites, which we know are used by mating bats for autumn swarming, they all occur. These all these mines and cave sites are often on steep wooded valleys, which, you know, since the mining activity has ceased to have become predominantly ash woodlands, do we have any idea to think of what the impact will be for those woodlands? I mean, you've sort of touched on in there and said, We think that where you've got heavily dense ash woodlands, they're going to be the worst affected? Do we think by that? Do we now have any idea whether if those ash trees die back whether other species will take their place? Or do we think those landscapes are just going to become decimated?

Rob Coventry:

Yeah, that's a good question. And I think a lot depends on the local setting the good density of ash in proportion to other species and the management that's, that's kind of delivered there. So as you say, yeah, they're ash, dense woodlands, and they're in kind of deep, moist valleys often, and I'm afraid to say that that is, you know, based on the kind of the limited advice and evidence that's out there, they are highly susceptible to the disease. So it's quite likely that you know, over a number of years, much of the ash in those woodlands will be lost. As for what returns will obviously, so I mean, there are some there's some ups and downs of management in terms of how it affects bats habitat. But one thing management can do if removing those trees or beginning the process of removing those trees before before the entire stand collapses, it can in Sure, you know, some canopies, it will trees it restocked, and we can retain some level of canopy as much as possible in the situation. But yeah, and I think natural, of course naturally adjacent should regeneration, both from ash and from other species would be an ideal scenario in many settings many sort of conservation orientated for management objectives the that I think that's that's a really in terms of maintaining ash in the landscape that is a really important kind of approach to conservation retaining treat any trees that show signs of tolerance, and then the difficult bit cultivating natural regeneration from them. But also from other species that are around them, they replace replace ash but that you know, Ash tends to be on quite rich like quite rich sites and they're some of the more challenging ones for for kind of actively cultivating natural regeneration on and also we have such high D levels that they are really inhibit inhibit natural regeneration and the kind of adaptive processes that come with it, unfortunately, so managing they're in these woodlands is going to be really crucial for for their ongoing kind of maintenance of the woodland cover.

Steve Roe:

So like I said, sounds like management is the key thing here. Is there information out there for landowners to get this sort of information so they can start that management planning and process now?

Unknown:

Yeah, there's there's a proliferation or most of ash dieback guidance. Certainly, I'm more familiar with the Forestry Commission stuff obviously, you can get that on the gov.uk. So there's a there's there's three Forestry Commission operations notes on gov.uk which look at managing woodlands affected by ash dieback managing non woodland trees. And, and then restocking woodlands, they're the three operations notes. So there are kind of core guidance. There's, we have a kind of a more easy reading note which signposts to various organisations and guidance which is relevant to landowners and managers. And that's on the forest Research website. Also on the forest Research website is a really good colour and manual is called. And that's got an abundance of information on managing ash in different settings. And of course, the research that's been going on, on actually links through to that. In terms of cake there's there's there's a case study document produced by the RFS in the Forestry Commission that's on the RFS website, and that's called Managing ash dieback case studies, I think, and that, that shows some examples of different approaches. That case studies where owners have actually, you know, been undertaking management. Oh, another one, there's, there's a great Forestry Commission and Natural England document on managing ash and SSSIs. That's probably quite a useful one where conservation is a key objective. And then there's some other useful bits and bobs from the tree Council and the arboricultural Association and things like that for more sort of specific areas.

Steve Roe:

So all these all these different documents just mentioned there, you know, we never had anything like that for for Dutch elm disease is is this a reaction of that that disease from the sham disease? Have we learned lessons from there? Or is it just because technology has caught up in and we're able to get all this information out there sooner?

Rob Coventry:

I mean, I think we did learn some lessons from the Dutch elm disease. Actually, when I started this job, I was looking into some of the forest Forestry Commission reports on lessons learned from the Dutch elm disease response. But I think probably now we have a I'm not sure how big a component in the landscape elm was, whether it was as big as ash, I suspect it probably was actually, but Ash is obviously a huge proportion of I think it's 12% of our broadleaf woodland or something like that, and a similar proportion of non woodland trees. So it's a huge kind of impact. I think now we probably have more of an understanding of the ecological complexity of different species and the implications that losing one of them might have on a whole array of aspects of ecosystem functioning, and, and biodiversity. So certainly a lot of the research effort has gone into understanding the implicate the ecological implications of of losing ash as well as as well of course of how to how to preserve it and how to develop a breeding programme.

Steve Roe:

Great stuff Rob Coventry. Thank you very much. Pleasure. I've just been joined by Eleri Kent, who's had a bursary to attend this two day woodland symposium. So Eleri, do you want to introduce yourself? And just tell us about the course you're studying? And at which uni?

Eleri Kent:

Yeah, hi. I'm doing a PhD in sterling at the moment, which is I've just started a couple months ago. And I'm going to be researching how landscape context affects wood induced by bats. And the aim is, hopefully, the kind of knowledge we get from that can then help inform the best places to put sort of reforestation projects,

Steve Roe:

you're looking at lots of different bird species, or just focus on one or two,

Eleri Kent:

we're gonna be looking at most lots of them. I think the main project we're going to do is put with passive detectors put out and sort of see what bats we get in different forests. So we're probably going to get mostly data from Perth, Australia, but we hopefully will get data from some other ones as long as it's like them as well.

Steve Roe:

So what's what is it this nature wants to come along to this symposium then?

Eleri Kent:

Yeah, it's closely related to the project I'm doing like, it's about bats and woodlands. So it's pretty close to what I'm doing. And it's just really cool to see what other people doing on similar topics, get an idea of what's going on. There's some talks yesterday about big passive monitoring projects as well, which were really interesting to hear about and see what they're doing and kind of pick up tips from people as well about how they're managing their data and stuff like that. It's been really

Steve Roe:

cool. And was there anything you were hoping to learn at the start of the conference in particular,

Eleri Kent:

I think just kind of getting an idea. Because I've only just started the PhD, I'm kind of still getting an idea of what what we already know what we need to find out. thing goes mostly just kind of get looking to get an overview, but it's been, I've learned a lot already. So it's really cool.

Steve Roe:

So which talks so far, have you found the most useful or have you absorbed the most information from

Eleri Kent:

what I found most useful was Sonia Reveley, who was talking about the a big project they did with the public for a state down in southwest, which was looking at using pest monitoring and seeing what bats they had in different woodlands and kind of how which species that were really good to pick up. And I think there's some really interesting stuff there as well about what AI can do now, with that data, like I was just like, Yeah, we had something like five terabytes of data, which was slightly terrifying given that I'm doing a similar project, hoping to do a similar project soon. But she's like, Yeah, when we just fed it through some AI, and they sort of sorted it out for us a bit. And I was like, Oh, cool. I know, that we had like machine learning stuff. We could do things like colour. Yeah. So that was really interesting.

Steve Roe:

Yeah, you'll definitely a big hard drive to store your data. And what would you say to people who have never been to a Bat Conservation Trust conference before and think about dipping their toes, then what would you say to them? If they're thinking about doing that?

Eleri Kent:

I think, definitely go for it. Like, it's really interesting. I've learned so much. And it's a really nice range as well of some academic people who do more sort of focused research and just people who are interested and sort of have their they have their own perspective as losses, sort of, yeah, I'm thinking about it from a science and then some people like, well, how can I help this back roost in my area kind of thing. And it's just like, that range of perspectives, I think really gives it a lot it like, brings up lots of interesting issues. And there's lots of interesting back and forth between sort of the research on the more practical side of it. I really enjoyed that.

Steve Roe:

Great stuff. Well, best of luck with the PhD Eleri and we look forward to seeing how it goes. My thanks to George, Morgan, Vikki, Rob and Eleri for taking time out of the symposium to make those recordings with me. The links to the various topics discussed in the show notes. We hope you've enjoyed listening to this episode of BatChat. We'll be back in two weeks time for our final episode of this second series talking about bats and churches. Catch you then.