Atmospheric Carbon over 400PPM

14 10 2016

By Rowena

In the news last week, something that’s been creeping up for a while- Atmospheric carbon levels. It’s something I’ve been watching for the past few months, while I’ve been developing our new carbon day resources. The Guardian‘s released a new article (that’s all a bit doom & gloom) which states apparently, we’re never going back below 400PPM.

So what does that number even mean? NASA puts it best, so I’m going to quote them;

Data are reported as a dry air mole fraction defined as the number of molecules of carbon dioxide divided by the number of all molecules in air, including CO2 itself, after water vapor has been removed. The mole fraction is expressed as parts per million (ppm).

Carbon dioxide levels have been increasing over the past 50 years, from around 319PPM 50 years ago, to 386PPM 5 years ago, to the current number of 402.25PPM. Quite the exponential increase. If you’re anything like me, those figures are easier to imagine as a graph;

The inexorable rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Graphic from NASA

September should have a low atmospheric carbon number because plants have been photosynthesising away all summer, removing carbon from the atmosphere. During winter there’s still some photosynthesis (evergreen plants, and plants in the Southern hemisphere), but not quite as much- because the Southern Hemisphere has a lot more ocean surface than the Northern Hemisphere, so it doesn’t have quite as much effect on carbon levels.

How does atmospheric carbon affect us?

  • Global warming (more carbon, more warming, more ice caps melting, and positive feedback loops)
  • Sea level rises (due to that ice cap melting)
  • Species & habitat loss

All a bit depressing, really. The Guardian have gone a bit dramatic with their headline…

The world passes 400ppm carbon dioxide threshold. Permanently.

It’s probably not permanent. Although we’re at 400ppm for now, there are loads of ways to reduce it- and atmospheric carbon levels fluctuate yearly. Next year, there’ll be a whole different number on the table. Countries all over the world are trying to reduce carbon production by reducing food waste, charging for plastic bags, banning single-use plastics and improving public transport, transferring to renewable energy. Environmental companies and charities are springing up all over, offering eco-friendly resources. Ecosia is a new search engine that plants trees as you search the web (my new favourite!) So maybe it’s not so bad after all.


State of Nature Report 2016

16 09 2016

By Rowena

This week a groundbreaking report called the State of Nature has been published as the joint effort of over 50 environmental and wildlife organisations. Previously a State of Nature report was published in 2013, and this report builds on it- there’s more data, longer timeframes analysed, and case studies, as well as a call for individuals, groups and the government to get involved and stop the loss of nature.

State of Nature 2016 State of Nature 2016 England report State of Nature 2016 Scotland report

Some light reading

So far, my favourite summary of the report can be found on the BTO’s website (found here)- showing some of the key facts and figures outlined in the report. A lot of it isn’t great (56% species in decline; 165 species considered Critically Endangered in the UK) but there are some improvements as well. Species like the red kite, otters and silver-studded blue butterflies have increasing populations, while changes at progressive farms are making massive improvements to species populations in local areas.

An otter I spotted in August up in Arran, Scotland!

The big question is- how can you help with all this? It’s one thing looking at huge figures that spell doom-and-gloom for species, but quite another trying to tackle that. The BTO and Wildlife Trusts have a few different ideas on how to start making a difference in your own patch.

  • Create habitats for wildlife- this can be as small as a bee hotel, to transforming your whole garden into a meadow for bugs and butterflies!
  • Take part in wildlife surveys and recording- use Birdtrack for the BTO, survey water voles for the People’s Trust, learn to identify wildlife with a Field Studies Council course.
  • Choose environmentally friendly products; avoid products with microbeads and single-use items.
  • Volunteer for an environmental charity and help manage nature reserves and conserve species.
  • Get outside and experience and enjoy nature!

How can you get involved with Juniper Hall?

Bioblitz 2016 - FSC Juniper Hall

Monday 24th October– Put the date in your diary! Come and join in our annual Bioblitz to help record wildlife on site and explore the grounds. Find out more in a blog coming soon…


New fieldwork animation

6 09 2016

By Rowena

A super-speedy blog post today (I’ll write a long one later, but on return from holiday, it’s very busy)! The Field Studies Council have a new video out on youtube- I’ll leave it here to be enjoyed.

Coastal geography development

8 08 2016

By Rowena

New specifications are coming for September, and we’ve been very busy putting together brand new days for them…

It’s a long way down to the coast from Juniper Hall, about an hour and a half to Newhaven or Pagham each, so we split it over a couple of days. Coasts is coming back in a big way to geography, so we headed down on Wednesday to update our fieldwork techniques and collect some secondary data (and some pokemon! Newhaven has loads!)

Newhaven is one of those places that seems to be always windy, but the beach is pretty nice when the sun finally comes out. The tide was really far out, so we explored down past a wooden groyne at the end of the beach, and the rockpools below the pebble beach. We also checked out a few information signs about the area for background information- along Seaford these were most helpful, showing a cross-section of the beach defences underneath the beach that’s been built up. Apparently there are 3 different sea walls hidden under there!


Investigating information boards

While we were at Newhaven, we had a go at some beach and cliff profiling, collecting some secondary data for groups to use and compare their own data to in the future. Out with the clinometers and the ranging poles!

Cracking out the ranging poles

After Newhaven, we headed down to Seaford, for both chips on the beach (lunch!), and a look at the terminal groyne. This prevents longshore drift removing all the sediment from the beach (ie, the whole thing).  We measured the beach profile beyond the terminal groyne as well, to give a bit of a comparison to Newhaven- which is in front of the harbour arm, so a little different. Did a spot of bird watching as well- lovely fulmars flying round the cliffs, and cormorants drying their wings on Seaford’s stack.


360 view from Seaford’s terminal groyne

Next we headed off to Birling Gap, famous for its slowly-diminishing number of houses. There are only four left now after they knocked the fifth down a couple of years ago, and it’s a really good example of what happens when there’s no coastal management along a piece of coastline.

We had a quick stop off at Cuckmere Haven on the way back to look at the meanders, before hitting the road to get back to JH for the weekly Stepping Stones quiz!


Juniper Hall’s education team (Missing Denham D:)

An orchestra on the lawn

29 07 2016

By Rowena

It’s been a busy couple of months for JH, which is why I’ve not had a chance to write any blog posts! Lots of excitement has been happening, although one of the biggest things to round off the term was a visit from Dutch orchestra Showorchestra Fortissimo. Staying the weekend at Juniper Hall, they kindly agreed to put on a concert on the front lawn to raise money for the ponds.


Fortissimo are made up of 150 players from Venlo, Netherlands. They’re an amateur orchestra, but play in professional theatre productions- and certainly sound amazing! During their UK tour they also played at Battersea Park in London, the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, and Claremont Landscape Gardens, Surrey.

After a bit of a grey day, the evening brought clear skies for the orchestra to perform under and the spectators enjoy a bit of sunshine. Everyone bought a picnic to eat on the hay bales and under the gazebos.


There was a wide mixture of music, from a couple of classical pieces, The Beatles, samba from Fortissimo’s accompanying percussion band, and a compilation of Michael Jackson. An interval found everyone flocking towards the bar for a refill of Pimms (including the orchestra!) before settling down for the second half as the sun started to set.


View of the percussion section from the orchestra

A lovely evening was had by all, and hopefully a lot of money was raised for our ponds! Although Fortissimo only tour every few years, and visit different countries each time, with such a success we might look forward to more orchestral visits in the future…

30 Days Wild & other exciting things

24 05 2016

By Rowena

June is fast approaching (somehow!) and is the month for biodiversity, it seems. This morning I’ve been doing a little bit of research to promote three different fantastic biodiversity projects in June, and made ourselves a board with loads of information and resources for the coming month.

30 Days Wild- All of June

Set up last year, 30 Days Wild is an awesome drive by the Wildlife Trusts to get more people outside and interacting with nature. Individuals can sign up here for a pack, which contains things like a calendar for the month, stickers, a badge, and some ideas of what to do! There are loads of free activities that the Wildlife Trusts are putting on too, which is pretty cool as it means people really have the opportunity to get out and explore.

They also have an app, which you can download for some quick ideas to get outside in nature. I’ve not downloaded it yet (too many other recording apps!) but from a quick glance, it looks pretty fun.


National Insect Week- 20-26th June

National Insect Week is a bi-annual event run by the Royal Entomological Society promoting insects. There are tons of events occurring during the week all over the country, which is pretty cool really, as insects are sometimes undervalued- especially the ones that aren’t “pretty”.

The section of NIW’s website I like the best is the Learning Resources area (I guess that says a lot…)- there are loads of activities and things to do; worksheets and things to read, lesson plans, podcasts and websites. Fantastic!


Great British Bee Count- 19th May- 30th June

Run by the Friends of the Earth, the Great British Bee Count mostly revolves around an app used to count bees. When I first downloaded it only 10 bees had been counted- now it’s over 18,000! When you spot a bee, you can record it on the app. There are handy pictures too, which makes it easy to work out what you’re looking at. It even has a few non-bees that look like bees (like wasps and bee-flies).

Record all of the bees

You can also do a timed count, watching a 50cm area for 1 minute and recording all the bees that visit the flowers you’re watching.

Putting together all these cool biodiversity projects into one board was a bit of a challenge, and I might have gotten overexcited… But there’s so much to look forward to in June!


So much biodiversity!

Real Family Holidays – Nature Walk

15 05 2016

On Thursday afternoon, Ruth and Zoe led a Nature Walk on Box Hill as part of our Real Family Holidays program. Fortunately I was luck enough to ‘tag’ along and learn all about the nature that exists on the door step of Juniper Hall!

Zoe making a good point

The route we took passed through Charlottes wood, up to Broadwood’s Tower, across Lodge Hill, up Juniper Top, across to Salomons Memorial and down the Burford Spur…and breathe! Overall the walk took 2 1/2 hours, over timed on the 1:30-3:30 Real Family Holiday afternoon activity slot, but we weren’t too concerned about spending an extra half an hour in the great outdoors.

First up, Ruth introduced the families to the Holy Leaf Miner, which is a type of fly whose larvae burrow into holly leaves. The leaves turn brown in colour thus the process of photosynthesis in the leaf is restricted.

Holy Leaf Miner larvae have turned a patch in this holy leaf, brown.

Next, we came across the Box Tree. Now, the the small leaves on a Box Tree smell like Cat Urine to around 50% of people, depending on genetics. So on smelling the leaves we got some funny looks from a young girl who actually claimed that the leaves smelt of rotten shoes! I hadn’t heard that one before…To me, the Box Tree smells fresh and leafy. Back to the facts, interestingly, 40% of Box Trees live on Box Hill – hence the name!

Box Tree!


“What is this tree called?…It sounds like you, and you, and YOU!” The Yew Tree also lives on Box Hill and is 1/5 of Britain’s evergreen tree species. They can grow up to a height of 40m. Yew wood is said to be very springy, and was used in Medieval times to craft bows. Mysteriously often found in church yards, Yew trees are poisonous except for the berries that they produce. This is perfect for their reproduction as it means birds eat the berries, but dispose of the poisonous seed allowing for seed dispersal.


Mixed into the fun facts were also tribal calls conjured up by Ruth and facial markings from the the wet mud on Box Hill. We really looked the part and the kids loved it!

A new look!

When walking up Juniper Top, not only were the views stunning (despite the cloud), but we got the pleasure of being introduced to a Yellow Meadow Ants’ mound. These mounds are constructed by ants to live in and to also attract shelter seeking caterpillars. In exchange for their ‘hospitality’ the ants collect the nutritious syrup deposited by these caterpillars. The mounds also provide an excellent resting spot for rabbits. Rabbits poo on these mounds providing them with a vantage point meaning that they are more aware of their predators and less susceptible to attack. I found that to be the most interesting fun fact of a really enjoyable afternoon.

As Real Family Holidays have come to an end today, I consider myself lucky that I get to call afternoons such as these as work.

Dorking looking great – Currently my favorite view in the Surrey

Thank you to Ruth and Zoe for their facts, and thank you to the families for being so infectiously enthusiast!