Challenging Habitat Blog

A grey drizzly January day in Cornwall and yet, nature is preparing for the coming season.

It is good to see that the public is reminded of the importance of small freshwater bodies for biodiversity by the Helen Briggs at the BBC:

Having created a wildlife pond in my own garden this summer, I have been astonished by the arrival of invertebrates, mollusks and birds within the first few weeks and months of its existence and the colonisation of pond margins with a variety of mosses, ferns and wild flowers.

Pond beetles whirling in my wildlife pond, November 2020

If you have a little space, I’d strongly encourage you to introduce water into your garden – a tiny space a couple of metres across will add a beautiful dimension to the experience of your space and it will support wildlife, such as newts and birds. It can be such a pleasure to watch evolve, get kids involved and learning as your wildlife pond matures…

I also sincerely hope that the protection of water courses on farmland and common land will be high on the agenda in coming years.

Autumn brings into sharper focus that nature wastes nothing and the laws of thermodynamics.

A fallen tree:

Surface for epiphytes
Substrate for fungi
Food for bacteria
Habitat for invertebrates

Matter and energy.

Life cycles. Upcycling. Recycling. Reuse. Circular economy.

Nothing new to nature, just to our society of STUFF.

Careless domestic waste management.

A damp November Sunday under COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

‘Damp’ is one of those understatements I adopted while spending half my life in Cornwall: the rain showers are interrupted by brief spells of light rain.

I am walking my dog down local country lanes in a chill wind and rain, with falling leaves under grey skies.

Not much cheer?

That depends on the perspective:

The rain is washing soil off the land and getting me wet and dirty. Bit it also replenishes our water resources.

The cold spells death to vegetation and the wind rips leaves off trees. And this reveals the colour and texture of other parts of nature: fruit and lichens, bark and branches.

It provides nourishment for organisms that live off dead plant matter and it prepares the space and conditions for renewal.

Am I looking at the end or the beginning of a cycle?

Or both?

The Cornish hedges near my house received their summer trim this week.

It’s looking a little bleak, with all the ‘organised chaos’ of wild flowers reduced to stumps.

However, the trim is necessary to keep the lane passable for traffic, and there is plenty of habitat for wildlife on the field side of the hedge.

I’m looking forward to finding out what emerges next…



Encrusting and branching lichens on granite on the Cornish coast. Photo C Braungardt 2009

If epiphytes were people, we would call them clever strategists. I guess this holds true for any organism that manages to occupy a hostile corner, but I am fascinated by life forms that grow on toxic substrates. In this context, epiphytes (or air plants) are the pioneers that prepare the terrain for the arrival of other organisms.
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