Sinewy, silvery trees rise from the green landscape of Marahoué national park, their smooth trunks supporting branches only at the very top. Marahoué is one of eight national parks in Ivory Coast and 20 years ago it was covered by forest and home to chimpanzees and elephant herds. Now it is more common to see the skeleton of a tree, slowly burnt by fire to get rid of the shadow it casts over cocoa fields, or just a sawn-off stump. Henri, a traditional leader from the nearby town of Diafla, grew up with the forest, and speaks lovingly of its towering iroko trees – but he had a hand in destroying it. Like many others, he has cocoa plantations inside the park and employs people from Burkina Faso to work on them. “This all used to be trees, but farmers burned them to plant cocoa,” Henri says. When he was younger, he used to see chimpanzees and elephants make their way through the park. They have been replaced by people. Having run out of petrol on his way into … [Read more...] about ‘Once this was all trees, but they burned them to plant cocoa’: the ruin of West Africa’s rainforest
Plant trees to save earth
On the western perimeter of Cotehele’s sheltered demesne, in the quiet before the annual wassail, a roe deer bounds towards the shelterbelt and adjoining arable fields of winter cereals. The morning’s pearlescent sky is enhanced by a section of rainbow as a shaft of early sunlight momentarily illuminates the stack on the summit of distant Kit Hill. Here, in this exposed orchard of local varieties, young trees have been regularly pruned to grow on tall trunks and form branches that will withstand the wind and eventually spread to meet across the broad avenues. Unwanted shoots below the grafts were cut out a year ago. Now, in the mildness of midwinter, orange leaves still cling to graceful branches and the recently mown grass is dotted with molehills of soft brown earth. For today’s celebrations, the breadfruit has been chosen, singled out from the 300 apple trees planted in 2007‑08, bound with ribbons, hung with slices of toast and a flutter of red and green … [Read more...] about Songs for the trees
Food crops could be used to keep the Earth's temperatures down and slow global warming, say scientists. By growing plants that can reflect more of the sun's radiation back into space, parts of Europe and North America could be cooled by 1°C in the summer, the equivalent of stopping billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over the next century. Growing agricultural plants such as maize or barley already cools the climate because they reflect more sunlight back into space than natural vegetation. Different varieties of the same plant can vary in how much light they reflect, a property called albedo, so selecting for higher-albedo crops would enhance the cooling effect from agriculture. Using the same climate models as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Andy Ridgewell led a team of scientists at the University of Bristol to calculate how different varieties of crops would affect global temperatures. "It would be an optimistic scenario that, … [Read more...] about Could new varieties of wheat and barley save the planet from climate change?
A retired couple have lit up one of Britain's darkest village with festive lights after decorating their huge Christmas tree which they planted as a sapling over 40 years ago. Avril Rowlands and her husband Christopher put the 6ft fir in their front garden after enjoying their first Christmas at their new home in 1978. The tree has now grown to 52ft and towers above their four-bedroom detached house in the Worcestershire village of Inkberrow. Aerial shots show the lit-up tree as a visible landmark in the village. The fir can be seen from a mile away at night The huge fir towers above the couple's four-bedroom detached house in Inkberrow Avril Rowlands and her husband Christopher (above) switched on the festive lights on Sunday On Sunday the couple celebrated the fir's 41st anniversary when they switched on the dazzling decorations. The lit-up tree is the only landmark visible in the village, which is one of the darkest places in Britain. Inkberrow - where the 17th … [Read more...] about Festive couple light up one of Britain’s darkest villages where there are no street lights by decorating Christmas tree they planted as a sapling 40 years ago
British homeowners are being warned of the dangers of growing bamboo in gardens, with experts likening its effects to those of the dreaded Japanese knotweed. Bamboo is particularly popular in urban areas due to its screening qualities, creating privacy in overlooked gardens. However, it can also be highly invasive and can spread out of control if allowed. One homeowner in Reading was forced to excavate her entire garden, after it grew to several meters in height and began to spread across the garden towards the house, damaging her patio. There are several varieties of bamboo, but the worst offenders are ‘running’ types, which have large networks of roots and 'rhizomes' (plant stems that grow horizontally underground). Bamboo's rhizomes are capable of spreading up to 30ft (ten metres), and if left unchecked and untreated, they can invade neighbouring gardens and even pose a threat to the foundations of houses. Scroll down for … [Read more...] about Great British Bamboo invasion: Gardeners urged NOT to grow the marauding oriental plant as it invades neighbours’ land and threatens house foundations