June 2019

Soil training for professionals involved in soil management

Sadly, only two British universities now offer undergraduate courses with the word ‘soil’ in the course title. As a soil scientist almost by accident myself, I can see that soil may not attract many school leavers to commit three or four years in its study. But as someone who has been involved with soil management for a large part of my career, the lack of opportunity for formal soil study at a crucial time in our planet’s evolution seems very regrettable. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see that a number of professional organisations have sought to train their staff in matters of soil management. Following delivery of soil workshops in previous years, the early summer in 2019 has been an especially busy one for A J Moffat & Associates, with delivery of soil courses for the Royal Forestry Society Royal Forestry Society in Alice Holt Forest, Surrey, the Arboricultural Association at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire and, for the first time, the South Wales Trunk Road Agent near Swansea.

Climate change and UK wildfire

In 2007, whilst working for Forest Research, Andy Moffat gave a presentation at the ‘Wildfire 2007’ conference with Karl Kitchen from the Met Office entitled “Climate change and forest fires in the UK – possible impacts”. Of course this wasn’t the first time that a linkage between these two phenomena had been asserted, but it was one of the earliest to formalise the link for UK forest land management. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology published a concise and convincing update of the subject as a POSTnote entitled “Climate Change and UK Wildfire”. This has been compiled by Lauren Shotter and Jonathan Wentworth from evidence provided by a range of stakeholders. Andy Moffat was delighted to be asked to be involved in this process and also to act as an External Reviewer of the Note.

The POSTnote can be downloaded HERE. Its main findings are that wildfires are becoming a significant hazard in the UK, almost certainly because climate change is increasing their frequency. It identifies that the responsibility for managing wildfire risk is shared between a number of government departments and other stakeholders, most importantly the land owners themselves. It concludes that better wildfire prevention could be achieved through landscape management.