As the trees enter their second year of growth at Euston Estates, and we have had more consistent precipitation, we are seeing the biodiversity of our project come to the fore, co-existing alongside our growing trees.
As has been previously documented, we have taken intensively farmed land and turned it into a haven for wildlife and biodiversity. We have intentionally left areas between the trees, in four metre strips, to blossom and return to a wonderful natural landscape not seen for many years.
Our trees are the fastest growing hardwoods in the world and allow an understorey to blossom that would not be evident in any other farming system, our trees rising above a wonderfully diverse environment.
It reminds us of the importance of our project which allows nature to thrive alongside a commercial operation. This is one of our overall priorities. We understand that creating differing habitats will allow a multiple increase in the local wildlife. These understoreys are alive with insects and this will support a wider biodiverse environment than before we planted the trees. It also supports the re-generation of the soils, as they act as a carbon sink. Organic matter will also recover over time within the plantation.
In certain areas we have looked at sowing a wildflower mix to support the growth in biodiversity, but in insect terms the natural regeneration has already fast tracked the renewing of the local environment.
This is also showing an increase in the total numbers caught in our pitfall trapping experiments. Below is one field as an example, but in every case we have been encouraged not only by the number of ground dwelling insects but also by the increasing diversity of species.
It is increasingly clear that as we ‘complicate’ the systems – i.e. differing species, when we move away from the monocultures of modern agriculture - that insect life increases dramatically.
The accepted understanding is that insects are the glue of ecosystems and we believe that what we have created will pay handsomely, creating food sources for higher order animals.
An example would be ragwort. This is not acceptable in agricultural situations – especially with grazing animals - and it is still our responsibility under the 1959 Weeds Act to manage it. We will control it if it is in close proximity to any grazing land but it’s also important to note that ragwort is the home of the Cinnabar moth (see photo).
The diversity of wild flowers is very exciting.
The Viper’s Bugloss is flowering now which has been attracting bumblebees
Mayweeds and Poppies have made a wonderful backdrop to the trees
It was also exciting to see Cudweed – and how amazing that these seeds have been waiting for the right moment to return, having lain dormant for possibly decades, and not been able to surface within a simple agricultural rotation.
The project is having positive benefits far beyond our expectation and the biodiversity gains are exceptional in such a short space of time. We are excited to support the natural regeneration that is occurring within our plantation.
Chief agronomist, Director, Carbon Plantations
July 24th 2023