On pruning trees in Malta

April 12, 2012

12 April, 2012

On pruning trees in Malta

Alfred E Baldacchino

The appreciation of trees in the Maltese Islands is gaining great momentum among the general public, though unfortunatley the official side has still a lot of ground to cover to be in line with modern thinking, despite national and international  legal obligations and much publicised colourful plans and projects.

This has led to the creation of a blog on saving our trees which are so much under official pressure and being decimated by the dozen without any proper management and without any official regulator, making the political responsibility so much greater. Congratulations to all those who have given birth to such a blog and to all those, without exception, who are contributing to it. It is a healthy dialogue which one hopes one day will lead to a proper professional management of trees in Malta.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/227850170644983/

A reference was made in the blog to a  tree at Balzan which was damaged by the strong wind (Photo 2).   It grew  on a small traffic island at the end of a one way street reached from Balzan square. Because of the way it was pruned, it was so top-heavy, with a heavy crown on thin main branches,  that with a relatively  strong wind it cracked. This photo (2) was taken on 10th February 2008.

Today I passed from the site to see how the trees there were faring. They did recieve quite an extensive ‘haircut’ as photo 3 shows. To my asthonisment, the tree in photo 2 was not there. Wonder of wonders: it had either gone to heaven, or gone up in smoke. The traffic island though is still there but covered in concrete.

Scandalous management of street trees in Malta.
(photo taken by AEB on 10.02.08)

I walked further up the line of “hair-cut” trees to see how the tree in photo 1, the phallus shaped tree, had fared. It looks more like a lolipop than a tree, or  like an upside down phallus, hiding its head in shame  while exposing its pubic hair.

On this save the tree blog above mentioned, there is a very interesting, educational video regarding the pruning of ficus trees, and one should thank the person responsible for putting it there. But unfortuntely  many of the various suggestions and advice given in this video were not taken in consideration in pruning these trees? I sometimes believe that street trees in Malta have never seen any secutors (imqass taż-żabra) in their lives. Chainsaws are more quick in the job, and thus they do not drain any of the proifts, irrispective of the negative aesthetic value they leave behind (photo 3).

Trees crying in agony after chainsaw treatment, and possibly the one who gave such an order was having an orgasm. (photo taken by AEB,on 10th February 2008)

I remember, as I am sure many of the readers do, when the Department of Agriculture was still responsible for landscaping,  before the present Governemnt Contractor took over. Such trees used to be pruned with more dedication and with more feeling.  I remember the ficus trees at Saqajja Rabat, which, in those days, were professionally pruned in a  seemingly sculptured way, with a crown that extended from one end of the line to the other, and with small branches seemingly like a trellis, which were so adequate against the historic builidngs behind. At that time the Department of Agriculture did not have any of the resources that today’s  ‘landscapers’ have, but in the past they used to do miracles, with as little public expenses as possible.

If one looks at the way that street trees are being pruned today, one immediately asks how  professional this  is. True that one has to keep in mind that we live in Malta, where everything is possible, and where amateurism is called professinalism and professinalism is called fundamentalism!

While following the line of the trees pruned in 2008, still showing their wounds, I came across the cherry on the cake in present Maltese landscaping approved by the political masters. When I went  past the Lija Cemetery on the road to Mosta, an employee with a tank on his back, probably paid out of public funds, was spraying herbicide around all the trees lining the pavement! Now those who know something about ecology and nature conservation know that at this time of the year the undergrowth is full of life with the various stages of a number of fauna and flora, such as butterflies and moths which are becoming scarcer by the hour.  Those in official positions know that the Governemnt on behalf of Malta is obliged to take measures to control biodiversity loss, an obligation arising out of our EU Membership. Those who chose not to know anything about the subject, endorse invoices for the payment of such activities paid out of public funds.  The poltiical responsiblity is greater than one thinks. It is a permanent dent on the ecological set up of these islands, as much as tampering with Hagar Qim or Imnajdra is a permanent dent on the archaeological heritage of the islands. No wonder a person I met told me that the Maltese people hate trees!

Never in the history of ecological conservation in Malta,  (or its exploitation) have so few benefited at the expense of so many.

Advertisements

The Natural History of the Maltese Islands – book review

December 11, 2011

 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Natural History of the Maltese Islands

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Bonett, G. (2011) The Natural History of the Maltese Islands – as seen through a photographer’s lens. 384 pp. Malta, BDL Ltd.

 

 

 

When we were young we used to pursue everything that moved, whether it was a reptile, a butterfly, a bird, a frog or tadpole, a beetle, sometimes even a flower or wild plant. This was perhaps the result of the educational system of our times, when we, as young children, were encouraged to collect such species during our weekend holidays and to bring them to the nature-table in class. I can remember tadpoles in glass jars, looking at their adult stages in adjacent glass jars, a stage they never reached. I can also remember pinned butterflies uselessly giving their last desperate wing beats, before giving up the ghost. Times have changed and such a change has also brought with it a change of mentality.

I remember Guido Bonett in his younger days, following with caution such wildlife with photographic equipment and binoculars. Guido was quick to keep pace with the latest technological changes which provide sophisticated equipment to better enable him to follow such wildlife. Change has enabled Guido to capture, not the living specimen, but photos, even of delicate and split-second moments in the life of species, moments which can only be captured, recorded, and filed through photographic equipment. Guido shot, and shot to his heart’s delight, with professionalism, ethics, and with satisfaction that, in his pursue, not a single specimen was endangered, injured, maimed or disturbed. The Natural History of the Maltese Islands – as seen through a photographer’s lens is an introduction to nature photography in the Maltese Islands. Guido reveals the wonder of nature in the Maltese Islands: whether it is a spider capturing a fly, a bird bringing food to its nestlings, a chameleon hunting insects, two fighting snakes, a hovering dragonfly, mating insects, intricate petals of flowers, close up of a number of flora and fauna showing details which are not easily observed and appreciated with the naked eye, or just a living species in a moment of its daily life. Guido’s book about the wonders and richness of the biodiversity of the Maltese Islands encompasses 59 explanatory photos in the introductory parts, and then a collection of photos which includes flora (92) dragonflies (19) grasshoppers (17) mantids (8) true bugs (17) lacewings (5) butterflies and moths (68) flies (17) bees, wasps and ants (21) beetles (23) spiders and scorpions (22), amphibians and reptiles (44), birds (72) and other wildlife (19) photos.

One of the many photos from Guido's book: The expression of love by two Lesser emperor Dragonflies

This publication has a preface by Dr L.F. Cassar, and Dr E. Conrad, from the Institute of Earth Systems of the University of Malta, a foreword by Louis Agius, the President of the Malta Photographic Society, and an Appreciation by Nick Camilleri, Managing Director of Avantech Ltd one of the main sponsors, followed by Guido’s appreciation note. All the species mentioned in the book are listed in an alphabetical English and Scientific index, and a list of further reading is also included.

As the author emphasises in the introductory part of the book: “The man in the street and even other photographers will be overlooking, stepping on and trampling without a second thought” on this rich natural heritage, while “The nature photographer sees beauty in subjects which others might find revolting, and this is one of the factors that make macrophotogrphy so fascinating.” But even in his pursuits of photographic natural living subjects, the author emphises the ethics to “take photos not lives, and leave nothing behind but footprints.”

Many may know Guido as a naturalist and a conservationist at heart. Guido has built on this reputation: he is today one of the leading professional nature photographers, for which, in 2005, he has been awarded an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (ARPS), and in 2008 an Associateship of the Malta Photographic Society (AMPS). His knowledge and experience in the field, where, as a youngster he studied and met a number of species face to face, has enabled him to utilise this vast experience to produce professional natural history photographs, not just from a photographic point of view, but most important from a scientific aspect. His latest work, full of passion, besides the high photographic level, without any doubt contributes to the scientific, educational, and appreciation of the rich biodiversity of the Maltese Islands.

In the preamble of the book, Guido briefly explains the habitats of the Maltese Islands, where many of his subjects can be found. He gives advice on how to take better nature photographs, explains the photographic equipment necessary for such work, such as camera body, lenses, macro lenses, telephoto lenses, flash units, tripods, and monopods, tripod heads, cables releases and camera bags. Explanations are also included on how and when, or when not, to use a macro and/or a telephoto. Besides in the main part of the book, which is a collection of his nature photographs, he also gives the English and Scientific names of the subject, the status and some information on the species, indicating also whether it is an invasive species or indigenous one. Included under each photo, is a tip re its taking, a code number, information on shutter speed, aperture value, ISO value, focal length, and shooting mode used, such as aperture priority mode, shutter speed priority mode or manual mode used.

The great effort, dedication and sacrifice which went into the production of this book, both by Guido, the publisher, the sponsors, and the printer have all contributed to such a professional publication on the natural history of theMalteseIslands. This publication can definitely help to create a better positive appreciation of our unique natural heritage. It can help to further create and strengthen the national pride of our borrowed natural treasures. It can contribute to the better relationship between man and the ecosystem on which we are so much dependent. This book can also be useful to those who know all the species referred to in Guido’s book, because it shows the minute details which cannot be seen by the naked eye. Naturally, it is also a must for all those who are aware of the beauty and importance of biodiversity, because they can also get familiar with a number of species which can be appreciated with the naked eye and which most of the time, many go past without even realising it. One has to know what to expect to see before being able to look for it.

This book is a treasure in the hands of every citizen who loves theMalteseIslands. It shows the delicate, fragile, daily natural miracles of which we all form part, all of which have been lent to us by future generations. If only the educational entities of these islands understand the potential of this book, and direct that it is made use of, even by being used during the various prize giving ceremonies in schools, it will be a great service in the education of the young generation with regards to the better understanding and appreciation of our natural heritage.