Prince William and Kate endorse giant Sitka spruce forest

Originally published here.

Click on the photographs to link to the website.

The world’s largest temperate rainforest, it features 90 metre tall Sitka spruce trees and 1,000 year old western red cedar. Plus bears, salmon etc in what is an incredible, intact temperate ecosystem.

Sitka spruce and western red cedar grows pretty well here in Scotland and the weather for the visit was what our foresters describe as “good spruce growing weather”. In fact, the climate and topography is basically like Scotland, without the midges (and with bigger trees).

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I know that some people think that Kate and little George are photogenic, but I prefer the trees. Take a look at Ian McAillister’s work.

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Ian McAllister

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Great to see the Royals championing a conservation success story. This area will be managed as a ‘wilderness’ with some areas of ‘Ecosytem based forestry’. Overall the area is part of a giant temperate forest biome, which is largely managed for productive forestry.

Royal Visit to Canada - Day Three
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are presented with canoe paddles as a gift from the Heiltsuk First Nation community during a visit to the Great Bear Rainforest in Bella Bella, Canada, during the third day of the Royal Tour to Canada. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2016. See PA story ROYAL Canada. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski /PA Wire

The views and comments are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular organisation.

Jason Sinden is a professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and a Director of Tilhill Forestry Ltd.

Further information is available from:

Jason Sinden                                               Linkedin profile

Institute of Chartered Foresters                   Website

Tilhill Forestry                                                   Website

Tethered Harvesting Machinery Demonstration Day

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The forestry industry globally has a significant challenge when it comes to ensuring worker safety. Whilst significant strides have been made over the last twenty years with the advent of mechanised harvesting technology the accident rate amongst chainsaw and winch operators still remains at unacceptably high levels and is amongst the highest of any industrial sector.

In order to address this issue the global industry is seeking to increase the degree of mechanisation of timber harvesting operations and significant efforts have been made overseas, principally in New Zealand and Central Europe, but also latterly in North America to utilise new technology to achieve this.

The principal limitation to increasing the amount of timber harvested by mechanised means is the current slope limitations that existing mechanised machinery is constrained by.

In order to increase the terrain capabilities of existing harvesting machinery the forestry industry has begun to develop tethered winches which provide additional traction to timber harvesting machinery and thereby increase the degree of slope on which conventional machinery can operate.

Although this technology is in its infancy in the UK a number of winch systems for use on steep terrain have been developed overseas.

In order to increase awareness of these technological innovations within the UK and also to begin developing operational protocols to cover the use of these developments Tilhill Forestry is organising a tethered harvesting demonstration day in South Wales on Tuesday October 4th.

On display at this event will be two tethered harvesting machines.

The T-Winch is a traction winch system which has been developed in Austria by Ecoforst. The T-Winch is a self-propelled traction winch which has 500m of cable incorporated within it and allows a conventional harvesting machine to be attached to the machine to increase the traction available to the tethered machine and increase the slope angle on which the tethered machine is safely able to operate.

The CEO of Ecoforst – Markus Krenn – is a timber harvesting contractor in Austria who saw the benefits that a greater degree of mechanisation offered and developed the T-Winch to enable this. The T-Winch has been in the development stage for over 5 years, but has only been in commercial production for the last 18 months, so it is a new development, but one that promises significant potential benefits to the industry, both in terms of operational safety improvements, but also additionally reduced ground damage.

Despite this being a very recent development the T-Winch is currently operating with a number of timber harvesting gangs in Central Europe and there is additionally six T-Winches operating in the forestry industry in Chile. Markus also has strong interest from North America and Markus will be across at the Maple Ridge forestry show in British Columbia demonstrating the T-Winch immediately prior to attending the event in Wales.

In addition to the T-Winch a tethered Kaiser walking excavator with a set of tree shears will be demonstrated at this event.

For further information on this event please contact Chris Pike at chris.pike@tilhill.com

Written by Harvesting Manager, Hamish Parkinson

For more information on Ecoforest, click here.

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Why the 21st Century will be the ‘Wood-Age’ Part 6: Choose Life. Choose the Forest.

So far, we have considered how we owe our very existence- both in terms of biology (part 1) and culture and civilisation (part 2).  We have then considered how we need our forests to provide us with the physical materials to live (parts 3 to 5).

In this instalment, we consider our current need for forests in terms of biology and well-being.

The leading cause of death in the UK is Heart disease, accounting for around 14% of all deaths.  A complex lifestyle disease, death rates can be reduced by improved exercise, reduced stress and medicines.

According to UK statistics, the average person visits woodlands around 10 times per annum, typically (65%) to walk.  This is ideal physical activity for reducing heart disease.

Going for a walk in woodland is an effective way of reducing your risk of heart disease.

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It is important to develop healthy lifestyles when young and forests are often used to teach activities such as cycling.

Cycling is a particularly effective way of maintaining a healthy heart.  It is important to introduce people to the sport young, and forests are often used for this due to the lack of vehicle traffic

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“A major barrier to woodland recreation is accessibility.  Planting more woodlands near to where people live, together with improved access routes could transform people’s health.”

Recent scientific research has shown that the proximity of trees brings specific health benefits, reducing stress, mental illness and even improving the creativity of children.

“safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses.”

This is very important.  For example, amongst males 5-49 years and females 20-34 years, suicide is the largest cause of death.

Hugging a tree could save your life!

Blog 6.3The effect of a forest environment on other major killers is also profound.  For example, diesel-particulates are now considered a major killer, contributing to deaths from respiratory diseases and lung cancer, which are the 4th and 5th largest killers in the UK.  Indeed, the UK government estimates are now that diesel particulates cause 6% of all deaths in the UK.

Recent research has shown that planting a few trees in your front garden can reduce the concentration of deadly particulates by 60%, such as in a replicated trial involving pot-grown birch trees.

“Electron microscope images of the leaves of silver birch trees show why they are so good – they are covered in tiny hairs and ridges which help trap the pollution particles. Their sparse structure also helps keep the air circulating and flowing past the leaves to filter it effectively (rather than trapping pollution near the ground as bigger and denser trees do). Each time it rains, the PM pollution is washed off the leaves, allowing them to start trapping more.”

Trees are astonishingly effective at absorbing diesel particulates due to structures on the surface of the leaves.

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If you want to avoid medical treatment, it seems that the answer is to go for a walk in a forest.

But, what if you do need medical treatment????

Well, if you are suffering from or at risk of cardio-vascular disease, the UK’s largest killer then you are likely to be prescribed aspirin, plant stanols or perhaps a specialist drug such as digitalis- all of which are from forest plants.

If you are suffering from breast cancer, which is the largest killer of females in the 35-49 year group, then Taxol, made from the Pacific yew is the drug of choice.

Essential medicines such as aspirin (willow bark), plant stanols (pine), digitalis (foxglove) and taxol (Pacific yew) are made from forest plants.  It takes 2.5 tonnes of pine to make 1kg of stanols.

 So however you look at it, forests are probably going to save your life.

The views and comments are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular organisation.

Jason Sinden is a professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and a Director of Tilhill Forestry Ltd.

Further information is available from:

Jason Sinden                                               Linkedin profile

Institute of Chartered Foresters                   Website

Tilhill Forestry                                                   Website

 

Why the 21st Century will be the ‘Wood-Age’ Part 5: Wood is HOT!

In parts 3 and 4 we have seen how wood can be used to provide us with shelter and clothing.  In this instalment, we consider how wood can be used to supply us with energy.

We have been using wood as a source of energy for the last 800,000 years, but 1/3rd of the world population still rely it on as their primary source of fuel and consumption is increasing fast in the developed world.

According to the FAO, globally around half of all wood is used for energy production.

The three main uses discussed here are for heat, electricity and the production of liquid biofuels.

Wood is a highly effective method of space heating and a range of products, such as briquettes and pellets, as well as firewood are available.
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The use of wood for energy is increasing rapidly.  For example, in Europe between 2009 and 2020, per capita consumption of biomass use is expected to triple.

Wood is also used to generate electricity, such as in Combined Heat and Power plants and dedicated electricity power stations.  A wide range of facilities are used, demonstrating the versatility of wood as a fuel.

The largest, Drax power station is expected to use 7.5 million tonnes of pellets, equivalent to 15 million green tonnes of wood per annum by 2018.  This makes it the world’s largest single point user of wood in the world, consuming more than the entire UK timber harvest.  Because of this, Drax imports pellets, mainly from North America.

Drax is the largest power-station in Western Europe, generating 7% of the UK’s electricity.  Half of its generating units have been converted to burn wood.

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On a more regional level, a number of industrial energy users now use locally sourced woody biomass to provide combined heat and power.  As the ‘surplus’ heat is used, as well as locally available fuel, this can be particularly efficient.

UPM Caledonian used to be the largest point user of electricity in Scotland until it commissioned its CHP biomass plant using locally available woody biomass.  The heat is used in the manufacture of magazine grade paper.

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At the Diageo distillery at Cameronbridge, the largest in Scotland, 95% of the energy is provided from biomass, with the heat used for distillation.

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Even more radically, wood is now being used to manufacture liquid bio-fuels, such as diesel.  This can be manufactured using a range of technologies, such as the utilisation of pulp by-products, pyrolysis or biochemical fermentation.

The UPM bio-refinery at Lappenranta is the world’s first commercial scale process producing wood-based bio-diesel. It can produce 120 million litres annually.

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So why, in the 21st century is global wood-fuel use increasingly so rapidly?

Firstly, wood is a great store of energy.  Indeed, dry wood has a similar energy content to coal.  However, unlike fossil fuels, timber does not release ‘fossil carbon’.  The real carbon benefits however are through the ‘smart’ use of timber- for example using ‘waste’ wood (e.g. recycled wood) which otherwise would not be used, but would eventually decay.

Wood is also available locally, and the best solutions are specifically designed to use what is available- normally low value sources of woody biomass.  By contrast, fossil fuel production is highly concentrated. For example, Drax Power station now sources its coal from Australia, Colombia, Poland, Russia and South Africa.

The flexibility of wood means that it can be used by an astonishing range of technologies.  For example, the cost of a BioLite stove is around £35, whilst the Lapeenranta wood bio-refinery cost £140 million.

The best energy solutions use appropriate technology and locally abundant fuel sources.  This BioLite stove has been developed to improve fuel efficiency and burn cleanly and is being supplied to a number of developing countries

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“Around 3 billion people rely on open fires or traditional stoves as their primary form of cooking and heating”

The views and comments are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular organisation.

Jason Sinden is a professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and a Director of Tilhill Forestry Ltd.

Further information is available from:

Jason Sinden                                               Linkedin profile

Institute of Chartered Foresters                   Website

Tilhill Forestry                                                   Website

 

 

Why the 21st Century will be the ‘Wood-Age’ Part 2: How forests and timber civilised us….

In part 1, we discovered how our brains and bodies were shaped by forests and trees and how this relationship enabled us to colonise the planet.

In this article, we look at how forests and trees civilised us….

These days, pretty much everyone has heard of the mysterious civilisation which farmed trees in the Amazon rain-forest, or how the Mayan civilisation collapsed due to deforestation.

However, the most influential civilisation of all was the Roman Civilisation, which lasted over 1,200 years.

The Roman Empire under Trajan has now been broken into 53 different countries

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To achieve this vast empire, the Romans needed what we would call today “a cluster of technologies”.  My contention is that without wood, the empire, and civilisation as we know it would not be possible.

Military technologies

The Romans relied heavily on ‘shock’ infantry for their land conquests.  These soldiers were equipped with throwing spears (a pilum), a shield (scutum), sword (gladius) and armour.

The shaft of the pilum was made of wood, with an iron tip and normally thrown like a javelin.  The curved shield was made of three-layer plywood, covered with canvas and leather, with an iron boss. This wood-based composite structure meant that the shield was light-weight, tough and provided excellent protection.  The gladius was a short, iron sword designed primarily for stabbing.

Used by well-trained and organised infantry, these weapons formed a fearsome combination, allowing for impressive land victories.

However, to supply armies with enough iron, the Romans needed to organise mineral extraction on a scale which was not surpassed until the industrial age.

The Romans developed water-wheels for mineral extraction, processing and for sawmills.  This timber-based technology was not surpassed until the industrial age.

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Making iron required a lot of wood as a fuel and as a source of carbon and research has shown that the Romans developed woodland management techniques to achieve this.  Indeed, it is estimated that they needed to cut 165,000 acres of coppice annually just to produce the iron they needed.

The Romans developed coppice management in areas such as the Forest of Dean to make charcoal as a source of fuel and carbon for iron manufacture.

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To conquer fortified cities, the Romans developed siege warfare.  This, together with good logistics enabled them to further expand their range.

To cross the Danube, Trajan built a 1,100m wooden arch bridge in just two years.  Apparently this over-awed the natives so much that many allied themselves with the Romans, allowing them to add the province of Dacia.

Trajan’s bridge over the Danube was around the same length as the modern Erskine bridge

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The Romans developed a range of wooden siege engines to enable them to conquer walled cities

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The Roman empire was centred around the Mediterranean and its conquest required a formidable navy.  These sophisticated vessels were built using fir, pine, cedar and oak connected using mortice and tenon joints, and manned by a crew of around 200.

Millions of trees were felled to build and maintain an effective navy, establishing the Mediterranean as a ‘Roman Pond’. Millions more were used to build a merchant fleet

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Once the Romans controlled the Mediterranean, their wooden merchant fleet allowed trade on an unprecedented scale- a forerunner of our global trade.  Indeed regions became increasingly specialised.  For example, grain came from Egypt, olives from Tunisia, wine from Spain with tin and lead from Britain and spices from India.  Hence individual provinces became dependent on each other for key items- in an increasingly ‘globalised’ trading pattern.

To facilitate this trade, the Roman empire allowed free trade and introduced a single currency.  Weights and measures were standardised.

This secure supply of raw materials allowed Rome itself to grow to a population of around one million. Never before had so many people lived in one place and this allowed Rome to develop sophisticated culture, technology and organisation.  Most buildings were built of wood, which also provided 90% of the fuel for cooking, heating and industry.

Public planning, taxation, plumbing and public water supply, central heating, sewage and sanitation systems, civil servants, police, the fire-brigade and even same sex marriages were all the result.

However, by Pliny’s time, Italy was almost completely stripped of its woodland cover and industries such as mining, metal smelting and charcoal manufacture moved out of Italy. Timber was imported.

Pliny recognised the damage and devoted Chapters XII to XVI of his work Natural History entirely to trees.

“…the trees and forests were supposed to be the supreme gift bestowed by her on man. These first provided him with food, their foliage carpeted his cave and their bark served him for aliment.(Pliny, Natural History)

Eventually, this deforestation contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire, as described below;

In the 2011 environmental book Life Without Oil by Steve Hallett, the author argues that the collapse of the Roman Empire may have been linked to a peak wood scenario in the Mediterranean basin. He suggests that, as wood had to be hauled from ever further away, the law of diminishing returns undermined the economic performance of Roman industry, leaving Rome vulnerable to the other, well documented problems of invasion and internal division. They discuss this as cautionary tale comparing it to contemporary society’s potential fate under a post-peak oil scenario.

The Roman Empire was built on wood and this allowed them to develop civilisation as we know it. However, their failure to adequately manage their forests meant that they could not sustain this society, which eventually collapsed.

The views and comments are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular organisation.

Jason Sinden is a professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and a Director of Tilhill Forestry Ltd.

 

Further information is available from:

Jason Sinden                                               Linkedin profile

Institute of Chartered Foresters                   Website

Tilhill Forestry                                                   Website