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What happens to the damaged and destroyed trees? Devastating tree-felling storms in 2021/22.

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

Storm Arwen arrived full-on, on 26th November 2021. It created massive devastation to trees (see earlier blog)

7th December brought Storm Barra, followed by Malik on 29th January 22, Corrie on 30th January, then Dudley. The rising temperatures caused by climate change are causing our weather to become ever more unpredictable and severe.

We were just recovering from the expected chaos from Dudley, 14th February, when we had the serious, life-threatening news about Storm Eunice (February 18th). Storm Eunice came with the unusual RED warning, in parts of Britain, from the Met Office.

"Red Warning: Dangerous weather is expected and, if you haven’t already done so, you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the severe weather. It is very likely that there will be a risk to life, with substantial disruption to travel, energy supplies and possibly widespread damage to property and infrastructure. You should avoid travelling, where possible, and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities" Met Office.

Storm Eunice did indeed cause tragic loss of life. Trees were damaged and uprooted, one quite shockingly, in Bude, Cornwall: Huge tree torn down by Storm Eunice in shocking clip as locals left devastated - Mirror Online

We now await the next storm, Franklin, then Gladys. (For more names, see: UK Storm Centre - Met Office).

But, the question we were pondering is, just what happens to all the trees that are felled by winds?

Michael Boxall, a man who knows more than most about trees, forestry, and nature, writes this month in our local Community and Church newsletter, Over the Bridges, about Coquetdale trees felled by Arwen. This superb article is reproduced, with kind permission from Michael, below, and can also be read in the magazine here: Over the Bridges - Online Edition

Notes from Coquetdale

The fingerprints of Storm Arwen will be visible for many years, not least in the rotting root plates and trunks of windblown trees which will never be cleared away, but this will not be such a bad thing. I remember, as a nature reserve warden in Hampshire, having to deal with the results of the 1987 and 1990 hurricanes. There were panic-driven rushes to “repair” the dreadful devastation and money was thrown into replanting schemes, in many cases for which there was no need. I can understand commercial plantations being replanted. They are a crop and source of income to their owners. Urban trees also. But more natural woodlands may be better left alone beyond clearing rides and trackways. Nature has “repaired” such damage countless times in the past with no assistance from us and given the opportunity will do so again far more thoroughly than we can. Unless there is an urgent need for action just sit back and watch for a few years. The scars will soften, regeneration of trees, shrubs and herbs will occur wherever light reaches the woodland floor and wildlife, in general, will benefit. Vertical root plates provide nest sites for birds and insects such as mining bees, the timber will be colonised by rotting fungi and become food for the larvae of woodboring beetles which will in turn be sought by woodpeckers. A whole new web of life will develop if allowed to do so. Some fallen trees will continue to grow, their side limbs becoming new vertical trunks and all will become increasingly right with the natural world, though the untidiness may offend some human minds which prefer everything to be neat and orderly. It is a great shame the storm felled so many old trees. They support a wide variety of lichens and fungi and offer cavities and crevices for birds, bats and insects to utilise, which their younger brethren have not had time to develop. Our activities in the past have ensured there are few older than middle-aged trees to take their place and absolutely nothing can be done to remedy this situation. Indeed, even now, for a variety of reasons, old trees continue to be felled, some justified, some definitely not. Planting millions more trees may help restore biodiversity and slow climate change, but the right species and only in the right places please. We must not destroy already important habitats. Michael Boxall

Unfortunately, not many woods will be left to develop in Mother Nature's time and ways. As Rachel Bell reported for the BBC on 18th February, the forestry sector has been working hard, and continues to work hard, to clear the trees which are quickly stripped and chopped up. In Scotland, where she is reporting from, the sawmill at Mosstodlock is processing around 4,000 tonnes of timber a week! What happens to the millions of trees lost to the storms? - BBC News

An article written in the Newcastle Chronicle on 17th February brings some hope and comfort. Daniel Hall tells us about a project: The Kielderhead Wildwood Project, which found an important and iconic 110 year old pine uprooted by the storms. He describes the new life which is growing from this "...the fallen tree is set to leave a legacy, with young shoots from the branches of the fallen tree, as well as the six still standing, will be grafted onto a new batch of saplings for planting at a later date". You can read the article here: New life to come from one of Kielder's oldest trees destroyed during Storm Arwen - Chronicle Live

A Question for You?

A lot of folk have asked me why trees that are damaged and have fallen during storms are chopped up? Why are they not used to make furniture, or whatever they were grown for in the first place, if they are a crop?

The ANSWER? I do not know.

Do you know?

Please answer in the comments if you do, as this is remaining a mystery to me at the moment.


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