Friday, 3 January 2014

Destructive gales rip into trees - creating some wonderful habitats!

An Oak tree with it's "crown" ripped out by recent gales
Happy New Year!

Well, the weather in 2014 has certainly started in a stormy fashion, carrying on from where it left off in 2013! Many hedgerow trees have had their “crowns” blown out and in the woods, many forestry trees have come down in groups over the last couple of weeks. It is very noticeable that it appears not to be constant strong winds that are the problem, but sudden powerful gusts that trees often can’t cope with.

The photo above is of a hedgerow Oak that had its top ripped out, (actually towards the end of last year) as did another two nearby trees. You can see exactly the path that the great gust took across the fields, as these trees are in different hedges, but in a distinct south westerly line with each other.
Within the woods too, there has also been plenty of action. I stood on a track today and counted at least 20 trees down in a 50 metre swathe through forest, but the trees each side of this destructive path seemed to be totally unaffected.

Now, any forester who  is reading this, please stop and go back to what you were up to before – the rest of you can continue!

This destruction is great! The trees that have come down will now let plenty of light onto the forest floor, allowing a flourish of woodland flowers to appear next spring, along with tiny little tree saplings. This will, in time produce wonderful, dappled glades within the wood, putting some diverse structure back into an otherwise rather uniform wood.

The two great storms in 1987 and 1990 delivered some of the best conservation management that English woods have received in recent times! Certainly since the practice of coppicing stopped as it no longer made money, and timber extraction ceased to be taken from much of our broad leaved woodland, because of cheap imported wood from abroad, British woodlands have become incredibly uniform. All trees are of a similar age, tall and with a leaf canopy that shades out everything that tries to grow below. The one thing that wildlife does not like as a general rule is for everything to be the same.

Many trees have also lost branches, which have been literally ripped from them by the vicious gusts of wind. Not only is this quite natural, but it will create superb places for birds to nest and bats to hide. The gaping wound left on the tree will allow fungi to get established, but while parts of the tree rot, other parts will re-sprout new growth.  Even those deciduous trees that have had their centres completely ripped out will be fine - they will re-grow and maybe, they will have even more "character" now than they had before!

The worst thing that can happen now, is that we all rush to go and “tidy” all this mess up within our woods! Leave it to nature to tidy up, it is more than happy to sort everything out – in fact it will positively thrive on the job!


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