Campaigning

City Nature Challenge 2020 in lockdown

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Last year Greater Manchester competed in the City Nature Challenge for the first time. City Nature Challenge was started by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences in 2016, and it has grown into a world-wide urban nature event. The challenge aims to get people around the world involved in wildlife recording and learning about nature in their local patch. It uses the wildlife app iNaturalist, which is great for people .

This year, however, with  the world on lockdown things are a little different. Rather as a challenge with competing cities, this year is a celebration of the nature that we have living all around us.  Spending time with nature has been shown to help our mental health, so this weekend, why not join us for the #CityNatureChallenge? Follow social distancing guidelines and try some birdwatching from the windows, spot the spiders in the cupboards, identify the insects visiting the garden or windowboxes, and share the plants you see in your local streets. You can also go online to help identify other people’s finds.

You might just find yourself catching the wildlife recording bug!

A Travelling Botanist: #WorldSoilDay

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Guest blog by: Sophie Mogg

I’m taking a break from my travels to celebrate world soil day. World soil day celebrates the importance of soil in our natural environment and contributes enormously to human well-being through providing a place to grow crops and supporting all walks of life.

In many parts of the world soil is now contaminated with heavy metals and radioactive elements as a by product of mining and various other human activities. This renders the soil unusable and unsuitable for feeding livestock, growing crops and restoring natural habitats. However there are many plants, known as hyperaccumulators, that are able to absorb these heavy metals through their roots, often concentrating them in their leaves. This process is known as phytoremediation. These metals can be retrieved from the plants by burning them, a process known as phytomining. By using natural hyperaccumulators we can reclaim those areas affected by mining and hopefully restore some natural habitats in the process.

Here are some of those wonderful plants from our collection, enjoy!

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Say no to the mow!

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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching a patch of ground on my way to work. The soil is thin (I suspect it mainly consists of brick rubble) and consequently the grasses don’t grow very well. Instead it’s been growing a selection of plants with more insect-friendly flowers. Nothing rare or unusual, but a selection of wildflowers which thrive in an urban area and can attract plenty of pollinators.

Last week it was a foot tall, with red and white clover and buttercups already in flower. The buds of the oxeye daisies were getting ready to burst and the birdsfoot trefoil and common knapweed  and were growing vigorously. This week, it’s been mown. I was expecting it to be a riot of colour by the end of the week, but instead it’s a green desert.

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It already had a margin mown around the edge to allow visibility for traffic and a path through the middle to let people cut the corner. It’s near a busy road and no-one uses it as a lawn to sit or play games on. I think it would have been much better left to become a flower meadow over the summer (and the museum bees would certainly have liked it) and mown later in the season. I agree with Plantlife and Springwatch: ‘Say no to the mow’!