Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nature Notes: Gorse fires in Northern Ireland

Visit Michelle at the home of Nature Notes.

I awoke this morning to a cup of coffee and CBS news talking endlessly about OBL's death and all the details they think they can muster. They've talked to Navy SEALs, who if they really are talking, should hush themselves. They speak about the damage left behind and the "real" information that wasn't in initial reports as if we've been betrayed. In Journalism school, I swore I would never go into broadcast journalism because I couldn't debase myself enough to cough up the crap I've seen on television since I was a kid.

I believe there is a quality to print journalism that is valuable although naturally I don't always like or believe what I read. But look at the condition of print journalism in this country compared to the television news rating circus.

When I checked my Twitter feed this morning, I found an article from the BBC that both lifted my spirits and gave me my Nature Notes post. It's not long, it's about the fires in Northern Ireland, it's balanced in a way you don't find much these days in environmental journalism and it's beautifully written. The link is at the bottom.

I hope you read it.

Here is an excerpt:

There were collective sighs from firemen, land owners and police as the first rain for three weeks fell on Northern Ireland's smouldering heathlands, woodlands and mountains.

There was also a prolonged hiss.

It came from the last embers being extinguished as the rain drops did their work and saved the environment.

It was that bad. If the dry windy weather had continued the damage would have increased.

Instead of flashing across the dry grass, gorse and heather (often doing nature a favour) the fire had the chance to linger, damaging roots and seeds in the ground.

And the damage has been considerable.

The bodies of charred lizards lie in some areas, in others the charred eggs of ground nesting birds. Food resources have been destroyed, putting newly hatched chicks of many birds, including the endangered hen harrier, at risk of starving.

It is all a subtle balance - or was. Swathes of heather are gone. They will eventually be replaced by coarse grass. It is more competitive than the slow growing heather when it comes to filling the charred gaps.

In the thin soil and peat of the Mourne Mountains, for example, the grass provides no protection against erosion. Heavy rain pouring off steep heather-free hillsides will wash the soil, the loose rocks and the mountain side away.

In just two days human activity has done more damage than has occurred in centuries.

Read the entire article here.


Carver said...

Very eloquent and moving article.

EG Wow said...

How awful the gorse fires are! I wonder if some people will feel the devastation of the area is worth correcting by pulling out the gorse and allowing the heats to grow. I hope so.

MyMaracas said...

You're right, it is a well-written piece, though incredibly sad. I cannot fathom what pleasure anyone would derive from setting such fires and causing so much death and destruction.

eileeninmd said...

Wow, thank God for the rain. Wonderful post and article.

Rambling Woods said...

Oh tears...more is lovely piece even though so sad...Why do people want to harm each other, animals, anything...why.....Michelle

Anonymous said...

"Next week the fires will be forgotten." as will the lessons learned, or available to learned from them. I cannot imagine why anyone would set such a thing intentionally, but there are so many things like that to puzzle those of us who care about our world.