City Spring Nature


Copyright: pinkbadger / 123RF Stock Photo





This Post is a Companion Piece to ~






Please see the Sections on Bees and why they are vital to the survival of our World at the end of this Post.


The full text of 'The Dublin City Tree Strategy 2016-2020' is at the end of this Post, which is relevant to all urban and suburban settings.


Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor  |  Volunteer Tutor 








I always say it ~ given a little crack in the pavement, a buddleia or a sycamore will struggle to the light!



Spring is really on its way, and has arrived with a blast in some places.  I believe parents, guardians, and carers (PGCs) should restart their daily walks with small children, if they were in abeyance over the Winter Daily walks are best, when possible.  These are part of the child’s playtime, exercise, education, and socialisation, and it is important to keep this up so that a child continues to meet the people and see the objects known to him or her.



Keep wearing the hats, gloves, balaclavas, or whatever you and the children wore during your Winter walks.  It's still cold, and stopping to look at new additions to the soil at the base of a tree or in the park, takes time; everyone should be comfortable and able to spend as long as is desired, examining the new arrivals.



Few people have private gardens, particularly in inner suburbia and inner city living, but that does not mean that those of us without should be denied the glory of Nature in Spring and the chance to share its beauty and wonder,  and  knowledge of it, with children of all ages.   We just need to get organized.  Have a look at your book on Local Flora and Fauna, and find out what you should be looking out for - there are always surprizes!



Bulbs including crocuses and snowdrops will be found tucked in against the wind.  Wild crocuses are slight and come in delicate shades of mauve, violet, and pale plum, and can be found in quiet corners of local parks, and at the base of trees.  The bolder, brasher, cultivars are visible in park attendants' plantings - aimed at brightening up the flower beds after a quiet period.  The daffodil, February Gold, is usually an early bloomer, as the name suggests.  There are so many daffodils from those cheerful ones with large bright orange trumpets, to small white and pale yellow elegant ones - which often have a gentle scent.  Wild daffodils have a glorious fresh scent; if you happen into a drift of them in woodland, with no breeze, it's a heavenly experience.  If you get daffodils from a florist, please don't put anything else in the vase with them, as their sap ruins all other flowering stems put in with them. 




Tulips will usually follow the daffodils.  The gorgeous stripes and splashes of colour in tulips are caused by a virus.  Every year a tulip bulb flowers, its colour scheme and design are slightly different, as the virus changes it!



Snowdrops are to be found from late Winter into early Spring.  Their fresh, pristine, flower head, with tiny touches of bright green, is a very welcome sight, often bursting through snow.  Be patient if you are planting them in your garden - they take a couple of years before they are big enough to flower.  Unlike most plants, the best time to break up a clump of snowdrops and spread them around the garden, is to do it directly after the blossoms have stopped blooming and while the leaves are still fresh and green.



You will notice greenery beginning to appear in walls and cracks in the pavements. 


 Nature is bursting out everywhere after the rest during Winter!



The Family's Discovery

Copyright: yuriisokolov / 123RF Stock Photo




Due to people’s work commitments, which may now be more onerous, many PGCs are working and commuting longer hours than ever before; poor weather can extend these journeys.  Perhaps, outdoor trips are rare from Monday to Friday, although plans and preparations CAN be made in the evenings for what the family will do over the weekend.


Anticipation is a GREAT part of the pleasure!


Examining the family's book on Local Flora and Fauna, with colour photographs and sketches, before a planned trip, should help everyone learn what blossoms are in season, and what animals may be about, so that the family members can keep an eye out for these on their travels.



Someone in the family may enjoy taking photographs and this would enable recording the great trees coming into bud, and everyone busy at whatever they are doing.  Anyone with a mobile / cell phone can use their phone to take photographs.  Smaller children may be allowed to take a few photographs with the mobile phones, given assistance.  Of course, drawing is now possible, as bulky gloves are no longer required. 


Any photographs can be attached to a large sheet of paper (see below),  with drawing details, added to it after every trip.



When on your walks, you and the child(ren) might wish to pick a few blossoms and leaves which you could place within the pages of a small notebook for safekeeping, until you get home.  Choose just one or two blossoms each and a mix of fresh leaves, which could be placed, well spaced, between blotting or tissue paper, and pressed between heavy books, left someplace dry and not too warm.  Leave them in place for at least three months, resisting having a look to see how things are getting along.  When you lift the paper very slowly and delicately off the blossoms and leaves, they should be perfectly flat and the petals may be almost transparent.   Don't move the flowers or leaves yet.  You need to imagine how you would use each item in one complete decoration on a suitably coloured pieces of card.  You could try using cut out drawings that copy the size and shape of your floral and leaf pieces, and move these around, until you get a composition that appeals to you.


Once you have decided on the layout, put the tiniest possible dots of glue on the card where the stems shall lie, and where the flower heads are to be placed.  You may wish to put some of the dried leaves in the background, and lay stems over them to help give a 3D effect.  You will need to leave the material to dry, flat, overnight to be sure all is secure.  If a couple of pieces are not secure - you could add a litle more glue.  You could consider laminating the piece, which would make it secure and safer from damage, but it would lose a sense of its delicacy.   This composition on card could be glued onto a larger piece of card, folded in half, to make a greeting card for a very important person's birthday, parents' anniversaries, or as a 'thank you' card for a Teacher.  A handmade card is always a delight to receive.  There is love in the making of it!


Children love making these floral designs; they are perfect memento of the earliest Spring walks, seeking out fresh growth after the darkness Winter.


   Spring means the Sap is Rising and Life is Bursting Forth!


Children, from around 2.5 years upward, can be responsible for helping plan what shall be required for the weekend trip, collecting much of the equipment needed, and packing it in rucksacks / backpacks and other bags, one for everyone to carry, except for very small children.


This is a useful part of developing planning skills, and taking on responsibility.


In Spring, visits to local parks, are mostly about breathing in the clear air, noticing the bursts of fresh green in all its shades, and the odd blossoms of crocuses, snowdrops, primroses,  daffodils, tulips  - whatever Nature offers us!


Surprize and then imagination are at the heart of everyone's play.   There is no wrong way to do it!


Playing with mud gives children of all learning styles an opportunity to have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.


Aural, Visual, and Kinaesthetic, and many other learning styles are all accommodated very happily in a muddy park!






On the day of the trip, the children shall need to pack:


  • A bottle of water to be carried by an adult, plus reusable cups that can take hot drinks;
  •  A thermos flask containing maybe hot chocolate or soup for the children and another with coffee / tea / soup for the adults and older offspring;
  •  A mixture of semi-dried fruit;
  •  Some warmed potato cakes or scones, well buttered. 



You may wish to have a small selection:

  •  Paper tissues;
  •  A small tube of Aloe Vera gel;
  •  Or a small bottle of Pure Bergamot Oil (which has anti-bacterial, antibiotic, and anti-tetanus properties, and speeds healing);
  •  Or Pure Lime Essential Oil (with its its excellent antibacterial qualities).   

 Don't overload yourselves!


Lime Essential Oil can be applied to minor wounds, scrapes, and frost burns, to help speed up the healing process and prevent harmful bacteria from taking hold.   You can apply the Oil directly to the wound or add a few drops to a compress and apply the compress to the skin.   It is good to have this at home, to deal with any freeze-burns or cut and scratches.


Please remember to bring a bag for all the empty bottles, wrapping and other rubbish generated; which shall be brought home for proper disposal.   The children shall learn, first hand, lessons on what material is recyclable, and what must go in the 'waste' bin and the 'compost' bin,  as they help unpack the bag when back home.


Each family member has food and drink likes and dislikes, and it would be a good exercise for children of around two-and-a-half years, and older, to consider these matters, and any other items they think may be necessary to add to the packing for the trip out. 


These ideas should be discussed with everyone, and the children should be listened to with attention; they have put thought and effort into the ideas for everyone.


This planning would be a serious matter for the children, and the reasons for their choices should be listened to closely, interest shown in their thought processes, and acknowledgement given to interesting or novel and useful ideas.



Look Up, Down, and All Around!


 Copyright: rmorijn / 123RF Stock Photo




Things may still be slippery under foot from the melting slush and the wet paths and pavements.  We should tell children this in a matter of fact way, saying "hold onto my hand"; even older children may take advantage of the offer, possibly hanging onto a belt.   Keep the advice about the paths possibly being slippery, low key, we don't want children going outside feeling trepidation - this should be an Adventure!   


It is all about Nature Waking Up!


As stated previously, there is evidence that some children are not learning SPATIALLY as they do not get enough time for real, physical, free play, to run, and to be children, free - for a minimum of three hours exercise every day, however the school and the family manage to fit it in. 


Please see Section ~

INCREASED PHYSICAL AND OTHER CONSTRAINTS IN SCHOOL AND THE CONSEQUENCES,  in my Post, CHILD'S LIFE BALANCE,  containing the comments of Rae Pica, a highly regarded Early Childhood Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant, and Broadcaster.


In the early part of Spring, while the conditions under foot are still slippery, it's a VERY good SPATIAL exercise for everyone to try keeping  balanced on two feet when negotiating slippery pavement, other pedestrians, kerbs, steps, and other everyday things which take on a new significance as a thing to be got around or over, or between.


There will be sliding and slipping on some days, and even adults can trip and slip!  Make sure everyone knows that slipping and falling are part of what happens, and just to take care as much as possible.  Have a small tube of Aloe Vera gel or Essential Oil of Lime  in your pocket (see Section above called  PLANNING).


Sometimes, in the busyness of life, we miss the obvious on our doorsteps.


In early Spring, it's best to take it slowly, and trips with new walkers, or children who have not experienced true Spring-like conditions, can be quite short at first, but still full of interest and novelty.  One hopes all the walkers have footwear with good grips or cleats on the soles. 


Once out the door and onto the path, all the senses should be engaged. 


The fuel emissions from most passing vehicles, which are discharged at around the height of a young child, have to be considered.  PGCs have to balance the level of harm to young children from fuel emissions against the benefits of wonder and learning, plus exercise, which children experience on their walks around the neighbourhood. 


The Dublin City Tree Strategy 2016-2020  is to be found near the end of this Post, and it gives a great deal of attention to the health benefits - physical and mental - of trees in cities, including absorbing pollution.  The Strategy document would make one wish to  fight for the trees we have, and insist on more being included in all developments, public and private. 


The health benefits of trees are


particulary for city living. 





This is an opportunity to stop and notice: to recognise any berries or leaves that may remain, and to try to guess what a few spear-shaped leaves, just poking out of the soil, may disclose in a couple of weeks time. On any piece of wasteland, you may see the variously shaped leaves of ground cover, giving a welcome splash of green amongst the old and grey twigs and branches lying around.  These battered twigs and branches have an important role - they give shelter to new, soft, growth from late frosts, and help protect it from being trodden on by bipeds or quadrupeds!


A small child is at a perfect height to have a very good look around the small patch of earth at the base of any tree one comes across, seeming to grow out of the pavement.   Given enough time to get focused, the child shall notice the smallest ants, centipedes, millipedes, possibly the odd glimpse of a worm, and many other tiny creatures going about their business.   These are all part of the diet of our blackbirds and robins. 

Some birds will be collecting material for their nests ~ moss, fine twigs, fluff from old flowering heads.


Centipedes are small and not very interesting looking at first glance: they belong to a class (Chilopoda) of elongated, many-segmented, insect-eating arthropods, with a pair of legs to each segment, the front pair being modified into poison claws.  They are speedy movers, and need to be to chase and catch their prey.  In some countries, a bite from a centipede can be as painful as a bee sting.


Having stroked the bark of local trees during the height of Winter to discover if it is indeed smoother because the ice in the tiny cells has given the bark a smoothed surface, feel it again on your first Spring walks and see how much rougher it may now feel.  As the Spring arrives fully, the bark should be back to its roughest texture.


Don't forget to look up!  There may be tiny buds of leaf   beginning to appear on the smaller branches of the tree above, with the fresh green contrasting with the still Winter colour of the bark.


Are you listening?  Block out the sound of traffic and concentrate, can you hear birdsong?  The distinctive and welcome song of blackbirds can be heard.  They have one of the most recognisable warbles of all songbirds.  Except in exceptionally cold regions, if blackbirds are about, they are very likely to have stayed for Winter and are still adding their cheerful euphony to the cacophony of city sounds.


If the family has a book on Local Flora and Fauna, with colour photographs and sketches, which can be got at very reasonable prices, when you get home from your walk, discarded the outdoor wear, washed the hands and had a snack, the adult and child can try to identify the bird and animal life, the insects, and all the trees, plants and weeds happened upon during their walk.


Neighbours and passers-by would be greeted by the PGCs which the child will have experienced from previous walks, he or she may be spoken to directly by these locals.  The young child has started his or her general social interaction, learning how to get to know new people, and how to greet them.  Now that Spring is arriving, a longer chat may be possible, discussing how everyone survived the Winter, and what signs of new growth have been discovered on everyone's walks.


Children should be told from the first day out, as with every season, and reminded every day, as they get ready to go outside, that they can look at everything around them, ask any questions, ask to stop to examine anything interesting looking,  but never to pick something up off a pavement, from the grass or ground of a playground, a park, or from a puddle, pool, or stream, be it an naturally occurring object, or man-made. 


Don't make a big thing of it, just remind everyone of it, along with reminding everyone not to go off on their own.  One may think one knows one's own streets and parks, but they can look quite unfamiliar in the various seasons.


A simple explanation that there are 'bad types of dirt' should be sufficient for the early years.  Discussions on germs and cuts, and the basics of first-aid, can be had later.  As long as a child is well aware not to pick up anything without pointing it out to the responsible adult first, things should go fine.  

When the child is older, he or she shall be listing for you the safety rules to be followed!


When the walkers get home and wash their hands, they can take out chunky crayons and paper, and remembering what they saw, draw the plant life, clouds, insects, and the bark of the trees. 


This was a BIG adventure for a 12-18 month old child, and older.  He or she would be full of news of the walk and who they met and spoke to, and have the drawings to show and to tell about, to whoever comes in that evening.


As the child grows, he or she shall become a strong walker, fitter than many children of the same age.  Walks shall become longer, opening new vistas, expanding experiences, and broadening the information base. 


From the easy to detect colours during Spring and Summer, the child learns the names of nettles, daisies, thistles, blue speedwell, dandelions, and buttercups, and will notice changes in leaf colour of the various trees in the neighbourhood, learn their names, and the types of trees. 


See Section RICHES OF URBAN NATURE in my Post NATURE IN THE CITY to learn some of the lore and medicinal benefits of the above, and other ordinary weeds and plants to be found all over the city and suburbs.


Have a look at your book of Local Flora and Fauna, to prepare yourself for what you may find, which you can show to your child.



 Such a child shall be learning in a visual, aural, tactile, sensual, spatial, kinaesthetic, and intellectual way, about Nature in his or her world, and also learning a great deal more on a social and a subliminal level. 

 This is a very rich experience for any child and, indeed, for the accompanying adult.

The sensations felt on the face and hands, through the seasons, as the child interacts with weather and Nature, grows in strength, knowledge, and appreciation of beauty and the cycle of life, are gifts that are never lost or forgotten.



Up and Out!

 Copyright: <a href=''>hyperstocker / 123RF Stock Photo</a>




I believe that if parents and children get up early even ONE morning over the weekend, maybe every fortnight if weekly isn't possible, dress for the weather, no matter the temperature, and head to the nearest park, or just a small piece of green space, now bursting forth with fresh Spring grass and small plants - some edible - a great many wonderful things can happen!


They would greet the people they pass in their neighbourhood on the way to their destination, having a good snoop in gardens and window boxes en route. 


A smallish space can become a Continentviewed with an open mind, getting down to ground level! 


Adults and children examine the terrain, noting rocks and stones; puddles - and the contents of puddles - as sometimes frogs spawn early; soft blades of fresh grass; small bulbs, shrubs and plants; trees, seed pods, worms and worm casts; ants, empty snail shells, spiders and their webs; beetles, evidence of bird and fox activity ~ everything audible and visible!   


Everyone can make personal rough notes or drawings, take photographs, or memorize the look of an item, even the youngest shall have their offerings.



 "The London Plane tree is widely considered to be the world's most reliable city tree.


"The Norway Maple  "The very shade that endears the tree to some planters is bad news to others ... The resulting shade can seem as refreshing as a forest glen or as sombre as a Norwegian Winter - even menacing, depending on temperament or the neighbourhood situation."


The Horse Chestnut and Chestnut trees are very common on urban streets around Ireland, Western Europe, and many other places.  They have the brightest of green leaves in Spring, as they begin to unfurl.


The evergreen Irish Yew can be seen growing in many graveyards up and down the countryside, and in town and city centres.  There have been studies done on it and it proves to have anti-carcinogenic properties ~ unique to the Irish Yew!  


The Cherry Blossom is about to come into its glory.  With delicate, papery, blossoms in shades from purest white, baby pink, apricot, cerise to raspberry.  Flower heads can be large or tiny.  The various and many varieties blossom from early Spring right through the Summer, until they are devastated by very heavy rain or high winds.   Some years, the blossom is so abundant the largest branches bow to the ground under the weight of their elegance.  Winter flowering blossom is a joy when most needed.


The above information in lime green was sourced at:









The most exotic plants can thrive in a city centre because the temperature of a city is usually a couple of degrees higher than the surrounding environment, due to pollution and light levels.


When buddleia was first brought to Europe by plant hunters, it was kept in glass-houses as it was thought to be very  fragile.   In fact, it is a great addition to almost any wayside piece of scrub land, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and is a beneficial pollinator.  The bushes or trees are known as "The Butterfly Bush", and have conical flower spikes that bloom in intense hues of pink, orange, red, and purple, throughout the Summer.  They will grow on any bit of rubble strewn land ~ so much for fragile!


On arriving home, all can peel off and put away their outdoor wear, wash their hands, and have a favourite drink.

THEN, everyone gets down on the floor with cushions and a very large piece of paper spread flat, onto which they plan out their Map, including everything they saw and noted, adding the pages of each person's drawings.  With the help of the family book on Local Flora and Fauna, with colour photographs, identifications can be made, and lore and medicines used in the past, from some of the plants, can be investigated, along with the life cycles of insects, spiders, squirrels, and foxes, and any other creatures observed. 


Until you look at your photographs, you won't know what images you may have captured - there could be paw prints of foxes in the mud!






Engaging with Nature in a city is not expensive, everyone can get involved no matter how young or old.   This is a way for a family to discover the world of Nature in their neighbourhood, to learn together, while relaxing in each other's company.  


These weekend expeditions can be both silly and serious.  Children get to spend time working and playing with their family, and strengthening their sense of belonging.  


These days feed the family’s imagination, on their privately discovered Continent, leading the way to bigger expeditions as the children grow.


We are learning to become aware of how our actions affect the balance of Nature in our neighbournoods. 


Hedgehogs may still be hibernating, depending on if there has been a sufficient and sustained rise in temperature.  They are secluded under ordinary looking piles and small branches, twigs, and leaves, they often lean against the base of a tree in a park, or in a quiet corner of a building, where detritus is blown.   Please be very careful to let everyone know not to go poking with sticks at tempting piles of leaves. 


Hedgehogs live off their fat when hibernating and their body activities go down to a very low heartbeat and breathing.   If they are awoken too early, it takes a good deal of their carefully stored energy supplies to get back to sleep.  When they come out of hibernation, they are very undernourished, and need to eat immediately.   It's a very tight margin, we cannot mess with their life balance by waking them up too early, and risking them not finding the food they need to survive.


When not hibernating, a hedgehog travels approximately a half-mile-square each night, eating slugs and snails.  They are voracious eaters, and if you know where they might be located at night, you are most likely to find them by following the sound of their loud slurpy-gobbling when eating!  They are certainly very useful helpers to every gardener, allotment holder, anyone with a window box - using blue pellets to kill slugs and snails, also kills hedgehogs. 


To kill slugs and snails without harm, put cider or a sweet lager in old saucers pushed down flush with the soil, and  dotted around the garden, and especially in places you wish to protect the soft luscious plants.  They go to Nirvana gently,  and you don't pollute your ground or window box.  Collect the dead bodies, replenish the liquid, and put the remains in the refuse bin for 'dirty' rubbish.


Hedgehogs do NOT eat bread, and MILK is very BAD for them.   If it has been a very poor Summer, and you hear that there may be a threat to hedgehog numbers, they do best on dog food.  The local foxes will want their share; hedgehogs are used to having to fight, in their own way, to survive.


A Separate Map might be Made for Each Season  

Broken branches, found on the ground, can be brought home for bark and leaf rubbings.    In season, tiny flower heads can be gathered and brought home to press and maybe used as a decoration on a card or bookmark.   If you saved seed from local plants in the Autumn, and kept them cool and dry over the Winter, you might  try scattering some on wasteland or in the local park  - wherever you sourced the seed heads in the first instance -  and see how you do.



Photographs can be added to the Maps.  As the seasons change, so will the material to be discovered.  


Snail shells come in many sizes from tiny to quite big - and they come in a gorgeous array of colours.  If you see the beauty in the shape, whorls, and colours of snail shells, you will know you have come to appreciate Nature. 


In Spring, you will find still empty shells that have not been taken over by another creature.  You could take some of these home, let them soak for a short while  in a little washing-up liquid and tepid water, then wash them very gently, using a cotton bud, rinse them, and let them air dry on paper or a dishcloth.  When they are clean and dry - their colours will sing out!


 Open your heart to the joys of Nature on your doorstep!


Kind regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien







If you have any comments, positive or negative, I should welcome hearing your views.  If you find any errors or wish to disagree with any of the above, please let me know.




Copyright: <a href=''>montypeter / 123RF Stock Photo</a>. This is a delicate apricot coloured Japanese Cherry Blossom.

Copyright: okskukuruza / 123RF Stock Photo - Squirrels, either red or brown, are often seen in city parks, and may come out onto the streets in search of food.




If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!



Bees - and Why They are Vital to Survival

Copyright: sedmicka7a . / 123RF Stock Photo.







Many species of bees are under pressure worldwide due to infestation of mites / parasites or through contracting viruses.  The bumble bee is seen more often nowadays, and there is no longer a constant Summer hum of bees collecting nectar and pollinating as they go.  Climate change is one of the causes in the alarming drop in bee numbers in some places.  Many people have come to think that the World may end due to rising sea levels due to climate change.  In fact, is it more likely that food shortage due to lower levels of pollination in food plants might bring a quicker end?


Please see the two following Reports on the status of the 'honey bee' and other varieties of bee.









29 Feb 2016

By Owen Gaffney Co-founder, Future Earth Media Lab.


We depend on pollinating insects like bees for the majority of food we eat; yet over 40% of the world's species face extinction.


These were among the findings on the first global assessment  of the state of the world’s pollinators which has been published following a week-long international meeting in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.


The assessment, also the first from the new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), created in 2012, paints a comprehensive picture of the decline in pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  Here are 11 things you need to know about the falling bee population, and why it matters.



1.  Almost 90% of wild plant species and over 75% of crops we use for food depend in part on pollination by bees, butterflies and other animals. The report estimates the annual economic value of pollinators at $235-577 billion. The western honey bee is the most widespread managed pollinator in the world, producing an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of honey annually.



2.  Since 1961, the volume of agricultural production reliant on pollinators has increased 300%.   Crops that depend on pollinators show lower growth and stability in yield than crops that do not depend on pollinators.



3.   Scientists are recording a decline in wild bees and other wild pollinators, particularly in north western Europe and North America.  The number of western honey bee hives has almost doubled in the last 50 years, but Europe and North America have seen “severe declines”, says assessment co-chair Simon Potts from the University of Reading, UK.



4.  Over 40% of invertebrate pollinators (bees, butterflies, midges) along with 16.5% of vertebrate pollinators (bats and birds) are threatened with global extinction.    In Europe, there is evidence that 9% of bee and butterfly species are threatened – but “this is probably an underestimate,” says Potts.



5.  Experts are concerned by the declines.   The reasons for the fall in numbers include: intensive agriculture,  pesticide use, pollution,  the arrival of species from different parts of the world,  disease,  the use of genetically modified crops and climate change


Researchers report that in lab tests, high doses of pesticides such as neonicotinoids and pyrethroids can be lethal to pollinators.


But also, mass breeding and transportation can spread diseases, while devoting vast swathes of the land to just one kind of crop creates poor habitats for pollinators.



6.  There are several ways to improve life for bees and butterflies. Instead of focusing on agricultural intensification, farmers could think more about ecological intensification – that is, farm for healthy diverse ecosystems, which will also be good for farming. Creating wild corridors to connect islands of wildlife across farming landscapes will also help. Improving standards of risk assessment for pesticide use, and improve instructions for use.



7.  The researchers found that indigenous knowledge can provide solutions to dwindling numbers of pollinators.  IPBES has gone further than any other major scientific assessment to assess knowledge from indigenous people, industry,  farmers and others, alongside the scientific knowledge.



8.  The risks facing bee populations and other pollinators is just one of the many threats to Earth’s biodiversity and to the biosphere – the region of Earth where life exists.     Many experts say we are losing species at mass extinction rates as a result of human pressures.   In Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, there have been five previous mass extinctions.  The last one, 65 million years ago, ended the reign of the dinosaurs.



9.  IPBES is now working on assessments of biodiversity in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.  It also plans a global assessment, which will include an assessment of the state of life in the oceans.



10.  Cultural diversity and biological diversity are closely linked – Earth’s hotspots for rich species diversity tend to coincide with a high density of languages.



11.  Even though IPBES’s assessments are about establishing a consensus on the current state of knowledge on a subject, and the final summaries for policymakers are negotiated by governments, governments have no obligation to act on the findings.








Worldwide importance of honey bees for natural habitats captured in new report.



Date January 10, 2018

Source University of California - San Diego



Global synthesis of data reveals honey bees

as world's key pollinator of non-crop plants.




An unprecedented study integrating data from around the globe has shown that honey bees are the world's most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and a key contributor to natural ecosystem functions.


The Report weaves together information from 80 plant-pollinator interaction networks.  The results clearly identify the honey bee (Apis mellifera) as the single most frequent visitor to flowers of naturally occurring (non-crop) plants worldwide.




An unprecedented Study integrating data from around the globe has shown that honey bees are the world's most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and a key contributor to natural ecosystem functions.  The first quantitative analysis of its kind, led by biologists at the University of California San Diego, is published Jan 10 2018, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.



The Report weaves together information from 80 plant-pollinator interaction networks. The results clearly identify the honey bee (Apis mellifera) as the single most frequent visitor to flowers of naturally occurring (non-crop) plants worldwide.   Honey bees were recorded in 89 per cent of the pollination networks in the honey bee's native range and in 61 per cent in regions where honey bees have been introduced by humans.



One out of eight interactions between a non-agricultural plant and a pollinator is carried out by the honey bee, the Study revealed.  The honey bee's global importance is further underscored when considering that it is but one of tens of thousands of pollinating species in the world, including wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and other bee species.



"Biologists have known for a while that honey bees are widespread and abundant - but with this Study, we now see in quantitative terms that they are currently the most successful pollinators in the world," said Keng-Lou James Hung, who led the study as a graduate student in UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences. He's now a postdoctoral researcher at the Ohio State University.



Honey bees are native to Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe and have become naturalized in ecosystems around the world as a result of intentional transport by humans.  While feral honey bee populations may be healthy in many parts of the world, the researchers note that the health of managed honey bee colonies is threatened by a host of factors including habitat loss, pesticides, pathogens, parasites and climate change.



"Although they appear to have a disproportionate impact on natural ecosystems, surprisingly we understand very little about the honey bee's ecological effects in non-agricultural systems," said study co-author David Holway, a professor and chair of the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution in Biological Sciences. "Looking to the future this study raises a lot of new questions."



For instance, in San Diego, where honey bees are not native, they are responsible for 75 percent of pollinator visits to native plants, the highest honey bee dominance in the set of networks examined for any continental site in the introduced range of the honey bee. This is despite the fact that there are more than 650 species of native bees in San Diego County as well as many other native pollinating insects.



"The consequences of this phenomenon for both native plants that did not evolve with the honey bee and for populations of native insect pollinators is well worth studying," said Joshua Kohn, the study's senior author.



"Our study also nicely confirms something that pollination biologists have known for a long time: even in the presence of a highly abundant species that pollinates many plant species, we still need healthy populations of other pollinators for entire plant communities to receive adequate pollination services," said Hung.



The reason for this, Hung noted, is that in habitats where honey bees are present, they nevertheless fail to visit nearly half of all animal-pollinated plant species, on average.



"Our take home message is that while it's important for us to continue to research how we can improve the health of managed honey bee colonies for agricultural success, we need to further understand how this cosmopolitan and highly successful species impacts the ecology and evolutionary dynamics of plant and pollinator species in natural ecosystems", said Hung.






Story Source

Materials provided by University of California - San Diego


Journal Reference        

  1. Keng-Lou James Hung, Jennifer M. Kingston, Matthias Albrecht, David A. Holway, Joshua R. Kohn. The worldwide importance of honey bees as pollinators in natural habitats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2018; 285 (1870): 20172140 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2140


Cite This Page

University of California - San Diego. "Worldwide importance of honey bees for natural habitats captured in new report: Global synthesis of data reveals honey bees as world's key pollinator of non-crop plants."

ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2018. <>.






Almond-Crop Fungicides a Threat to Honey Bees

Mar 21, 2017 — Fungicides commonly used in almond orchards can be harmful to almond growers' primary pollinator: honey bees. According to new research, the fungicide iprodione, when used alone or in ... read more 


Transmission of Viruses Between Eastern and Western Honey Bees Are Rare

Apr 1, 2016 — Interspecific transfers of viruses between the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) are rare, even if honey bees are kept in close proximity, new research ... read more 


How DNA and a Supercomputer Can Help Sustain Honey Bee Populations

Nov 13, 2015 — To uncover what plants honey bees rely on, researchers are applying DNA metabarcoding to pollen analysis. A new method uses three loci to characterize pollen samples collected by honey bees. This ... read more


Urban Environments Boost Pathogen Pressure on Honey Bees

Nov 4, 2015 — Urban environments increase pathogen abundance in honey bees (Apis mellifera) and reduce honey bee survival, entomology researchers have found. The finding raises significant questions as urban areas ... read more 



The colouring of titles, headings, and text in the above two Reports

was done by me, ICOB.




Dublin City Tree Strategy 2016-2020

 Copyright: struvictory / 123RF Stock Photo


Dublin City Tree Strategy 2016-2020


A planted tree is a promise. 

It is through growth over time that a tree can fulfil its potential to deliver its full range of benefits and, through these, a return on investment.  As such, trees have a very different life cycle to most other public assets: their value increases with time.



Importance of Trees in the City

Trees are a valuable functional component of the urban landscape – they also make a significant contribution to people’s health and quality of life.   Within the City, trees clean the air, provide natural flood defences, mask noise and promote a general sense of well-being.   Within the higher density areas of the City trees have considerable beneficial impacts on the lives of those who do not have immediate access to other more traditional types of open space.   Trees, for example, can add colour, interest and beauty to our busy streets.   Within the City, urban trees contribute significantly towards many environmental and social benefits, such as journey quality, biodiversity, temperature regulation, and habitat.


Within the city, trees clean the air, provide natural flood defences, mask noise and promote a general sense of well-being.



Health and Well-Being

Trees play an important role in reducing the risk of skin cancers by providing shade from harmful ultraviolet radiation.   Our stress and illness levels are often lower where trees are planted, as trees provide psychological refreshment and a sense of well-being through softening the urban environment.   As trees mature, they create character and a sense of place and permanence whilst releasing scents and aromas that create a positive emotional response.  Research published in 'Horizon' – the research magazine of the European Union - has shown that exposure to trees helps to prolong life and improve mental health (Roberts, J and Boorman E, 2015).



Habitat Provision

Dublin’s trees are a key component of the valuable urban habitat and make up a significant and highly visible component of the capital’s biodiversity.   Some species in the Capital subject to legal protection are strongly associated with trees, such as bats and birds (many of which nest in trees and shrubs).   Trees and shrubs also provide food for many animal, plant and fungi species, from non-vascular plants, such as mosses, to insects, birds and mammals.


Pollinating insects provide ecosystem services in urban areas by pollinating flowers and producing food.  The diverse nature of urban land use offers a wide range of pollinator habitats, but trees offer an important source of pollen at particular times of year when other sources are unavailable.


There is potential for the City’s tree stock to develop in the future, and provide greater environmental and social benefits for future generations.   As the amount of healthy leaf area equates directly to the provision of benefits, future management of the tree stock is important to ensure canopy cover levels continue to increase.   This may be achieved via new planting and the protection and management of existing trees to develop into a stable, healthy, age and species diverse, multi-layered tree population.


The successful retention of suitable trees is a benchmark of sustainable development.


Rainfall runs off land and buildings at such a rate that it is unable to drain away in streams, rivers, drains or sewers.   Large urban areas are particularly at risk because the coverage of impermeable surfaces such as buildings, pavements, roads and parking areas means that rain water cannot permeate into the ground or be absorbed by plants and trees or stored in ditches and ponds.   In addition, this runoff can quickly become polluted, as the rain effectively washes urban streets and buildings carrying high concentrations of hydrocarbons, metals, dust, litter and organic materials into local streams and rivers where the concentration can cause serious pollution to those watercourses.   Climate change predictions suggest more intense rainfall events during summer months, and generally wetter conditions through winter months, which will intensify the problems.   During rainfall a proportion of the precipitation is intercepted by vegetation (trees and shrubs) whilst a further proportion reaches the ground.   The root systems of urban trees promote infiltration and water storage in the soil.   Together this slows the passage of stormwater into the piped drainage network.



Ecosystem Services provided by Urban Trees

"Trees play a crucial role in capturing pollutants and particulates from the air.   Street trees can significantly improve air quality, which can in turn provide health benefits, if planned, planted and maintained carefully."



Air Pollution Removal

Trees play a crucial role in capturing pollutants and particulates from the air.   Street trees can significantly improve air quality, which can in turn provide health benefits, if planned, planted and maintained carefully.   The problems caused by poor air quality are well known, ranging from human health impacts to damage to buildings, and smog.   Trees make a significant contribution to improving air quality by reducing air temperature (thereby lowering ozone levels), directly removing pollutants from the air, absorbing them through the leaf surfaces and by intercepting particulate matter (eg, smoke, pollen, ash and dusts).   Trees can also indirectly help to reduce energy demand in buildings; resulting in fewer emissions from gas and oil fired burners, excess heat from air conditioning units and reduced demand from power plants.



Carbon Storage and Sequestration

Carbon storage relates to the carbon currently held in trees’ tissue (roots, stem, and branches), whereas carbon sequestration is the estimated amount of carbon removed annually by trees.   Trees can help mitigate climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon as part of the carbon cycle.   Since about 50% of wood by dry weight is comprised of carbon, tree stems and roots can store up carbon for decades or even centuries.   Over the lifetime of a single tree, several tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide can be absorbed.



Dublin City Tree Strategy 2016-2020



All colouring of quoted texts above, including increasing font sizes on headings and other sections, in this Post were added by me, ICOB.