A humanscape - a blank slate

I visited this long adandoned tennis court on my patch. You wouldn't think it was the most promising for wildlife - but on close inspection it's full of natural treasures!
I think this shows some interesting things
  • When humans abandon a place nature reclaims it.
  • We're living in the Anthropocene - an age when man has fundamentally altered the earth - often to the detriment of everything else - but even a man made habitat like this one can play host to a degree of biodiversity.
  • Simply put there is a lot of nature! - a lot of species, each adapted to its unique way of life. Whatever the specialised habitat there will be something (and often 100's, even 1000's of species) that can live there.
  • and also the more you look the more see.
Tortella tortuosa. Frizzled Crisp-moss
It's a tennis court - there are a lot these cushions of moss that look like tennis balls - what are the chances!! 

First colonisers - cyanobacteria (Nostoc commune)
The first colonisers - cyanobacteria (Nostoc commune) don't need to root into anything, so just sit on the surface and photosynthesise away. They can also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and can therefore live in locations where no nitrogenous compounds are available from the substrate.

These organisms pave the way for others - the mosses, then fungi and lichens and later flowering plants.  E
ventually, if left to its own devices the tennis court would become willow scrub then finally mature woodland.
The tennis court, like a lot of  these 'humanscapes', is a blank slate to start with.  It is open to opportunistic species - species that would have evolved to live in the 'natural'  equivalents of the habitats that man creates.

To start with there is no soil but as succession starts to take place - first with algae, lichens and mosses - soil gradually accumulates. It becomes ever  more  hospitable to higher plants and in each stage along the development to mature woodland micro-habitats are created playing host to all manner of other species - insects, spiders, snails etc.

Sunlit Lichen - Cladonia fimbriata
A rare fungus - Arrhenia onisca When I first this on my patch on my patch a couple years ago it was a new species for Lancashire.

Bovista plumbea, Grey Puffball mushroom 

Sunlit lichen - Cladonia chlorophaea
Song thrush's anvil - it bashes snail shells against its favoured rock to get at the snail
The delightfully named Dogs sick slime mold - Mucilago crustacea
Dewy moss - Brachythecium rutabulum
Anyone for moss-based tennis?  Tortella tortuosa. Frizzled Crisp-moss - also some nostoc in the foreground

AS Vince Gaia's recently published book 'Adventures in the Anthropocene' argues - the world we've created is full of these 'humancapes' that aren't usually revered in the same way that, for example, woodland is

...perhaps we should learn to love them a little more!

Thanks to Gerard Siron
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