Manchester Geographical Society

North West Geography


Volume 11, Number 1, 2011

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Characterising phenological changes in North West forests using terrestrial laser scanning: some preliminary results

The value of phenological data in climate change research has been recognised by the scientific community, as phenology plays a crucial role in global warming studies. The significance of two-dimensional information on vegetation composition provided by optical remotely sensed data to identify phenological changes in vegetation canopies is well established. Nevertheless, the three-dimensional (3D) characterisation of vegetated environments by means of light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, both at ground-based and airborne levels, has recently been recognised by environmental scientists. Lidar data can contribute with accurate 3D information on biophysical properties of vegetation characteristics, including canopy cover, leaf area index (LAI) and vegetation height. The objective of this study is to test a quantitative, accurate and repeatable method for characterising phenological changes in forest canopies, by using multi-temporal terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) data. The study is being conducted in Delamere Forest, located in Cheshire, North West England. Lidar data on vegetation structure were acquired for seven sampling plots, two broad-leaved and five conifer stands, between March 2008 and April 2009. Canopy directional gap fraction distributions were derived from TLS datasets, and compared with estimates derived from hemispherical photographs recorded coincidentally with the TLS measurements. The results indicate the potential of TLS to characterise canopy structure. This characterisation will lead to further assessment of the sensitivity of lidar sensors to seasonal variations in forest canopies.

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The last glacier in Dovedale, Lake District

Field mapping of moraine ridges and mounds in Dovedale, Lake District, has enabled the reconstruction of a small valley glacier. At its maximum extent the glacier covered an area of 3.39 km2 and had an equilibrium line altitude of ~522 m. The presence of moraines in both the lower and upper parts of the valley suggests that the glacier underwent active retreat. Some of the 'moraine ridges' may have resulted from or been enhanced by fluvial erosion of thick drift sheets. Although the age of the moraines has not been determined it is inferred that the glacier developed during the Loch Lomond Stadial (12.9-11.7 ka BP). If this inference is correct the Dovedale glacier was the largest glacier to have developed in the eastern Lake District during this interval, and it probably connected across parts of the drainage divide with glaciers in neighbouring valleys.

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Thomas Jeffery's Map of "The County of Westmoreland" (1770): an evaluation of its contribution to understanding late eighteenth century landscape

Thomas Jeffery’s map of Westmorland was one of the new county maps published in the late eighteenth century. Apart from the pursuit of profit, Jefferys’ motives in producing his map were unclear, though its contents provide clues as to what he was attempting to portray in the Westmorland landscape of the late eighteenth century. His depiction of the landscape (broadly conceived) was different in crucial respects from that provided by earlier and later cartographers. An attempt is made to evaluate his map in relation to its possible purpose.

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Meteors and perceptions of environmental change in the annus mirabilis AD1783-4

The years 1783 and 1784 experienced a remarkable concentration of natural disasters with volcanic eruptions in Iceland, Italy and Japan, large earthquakes in Italy, floods in central Europe and greatly elevated human mortality in northwest Europe. This 'year of awe' has attracted considerable interest from environmental scientists and historians for both the natural disasters themselves and their societal perception. This paper argues that one key piece of this jigsaw has been largely over-looked: 1783 also saw reports of a remarkable number of large, bright meteors in Britain and throughout northern Europe, including one of the most dramatic in recorded history. Records of these meteors in British newspapers and the contemporary scientific record are explored and it is proposed that meteors played an important role in perceptions of environmental change. The meteors contributed to a widespread sense of impending cataclysm, often interpreted in explicitly religious terms. The scientific response was to catalogue and describe the sightings and hypothesise links with the other environmental 'events' of the period. To fully understand environmental change in the annus mirabilis the meteors cannot be ignored.

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