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What Has Been Happening in UK's Woodlands?
Recent reports have it that the “daddy longlegs" or the crane flies in UK, are facing near extinction. These crane flies are known to breed in fallen dead woods that hold water seepages from streams and nearby bodies of water. In fact, dead woods provide ideal breeding grounds for a variety of invertebrates.
In recent years however, the conditions of these dead woods in England’s woodland areas were affected by the disruption of its natural hydrology or the use, circulation and distribution of the nearby bodies of water. Studies may readily pinpoint to climate change and global warming as the reasons for the changes in environmental conditions in these areas, but there are other evident reasons.
The increased activities in this region are among the causes why natural breeding grounds for the woodland insects are now subjected to human intervention and management. Canals and ditches are now being blocked as a way of helping these larvae to survive.
England’s Peak District National Park, a home for many of the country’s wildlife is a place visited by tourists from all over the world. The place provides the best spots for climbing, cave exploring, cycling or simply walking. It is also home to 38,000 locals whose main livelihood comes from tourism, agricultural farming, manufacturing and quarrying. Hence, the effects of over trampling, over grazing and the changes in water distribution have affected the ecological balance in the woodland areas to maintain sustainability among woodland inhabitants.
In addition, the heightening of summer temperature has dried up the peat land surface areas, causing death in larvae depositions. These larvae were expected to emerge as adults the following spring but as a result of all ecological detriments in woodlands and uplands, the mature crane flies that emerged in the following spring fell by 95%.
Feared Consequences of Extinction
The environmental impact brought about by the near loss of UK’s "daddy long legs" will result to the starvation of a number of upland birds, which include the golden plover. Presently, it is also feared that this small but colorful wading bird will reach its extinction at the end of the century.
The relationship between these crane flies and the golden plovers manifests a system of biodiversity that is affected by ecological imbalance. Hence, conservation charities are now working at the preservation of a variety of deadwoods in all stages of decay in the woodland areas.
Dead woods and its components are now being recognized for its utmost importance in the woodland ecology. A selection of dead standing trees, fallen dead wood, dead branches, stems and stumps will be preserved to provide shelter and protection for the developing larvae. In addition, water seepages in areas near bodies of water will also be shielded against too much grazing and trampling by woodland trekkers.
As added information, the species of “daddy longlegs" found in the U.S. and other countries are known as cellar spiders and they are regular, venom-less, web-spinning spiders thriving on damp and undisturbed basements. The long-legged U.S. cellar spiders are not considered as among the endangered lot, unlike the UK crane flies that are feared to be on the verge of extinction.
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Current Conservation Efforts
A research funded by a Natural Environment Research Council CASE PhD studentship, has made it possible for conservation scientists to further their studies on how to keep the UK upland peat bogs hydrated. They are focused on strengthening the ecosystem by keeping the drains blocked as their means to raise the water levels. Keeping the bogs perennially wet will make the crane flies' habitat more resilient to climate changes, which allows for more successful breeding of the larvae through their adult stage. Farmers and government agencies are providing their support and cooperation in restoring the peat bogs, toward the improvement of the upland's present ecosystem to ensure wildlife sustainability.
- Adult Crane Fly, Tipula (Platytipula) paterifera by Bruce Marlin under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic
- University of York (2011, May 21). The wetter the better for daddy longlegs -- and birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404110814.htm