In-field trees, hedgerow trees, roadside trees, wood pasture and parkland. It’s not clear how impactful Storm Arwen has been on our trees outside woods, which constitute most of our most mature, veteran and ancient trees. Some woodland managers and tree officers have suggested so far that locally the impact has been catastrophic.
These trees are not part of a resilient system that allows regeneration, and there is a worry that once these trees are lost, there is no plan for succession. Open grown trees are an incredibly rich and diverse ecosystem, as well as being hugely important to our cultural and landscape heritage. Crucially, if you’re able to retain tree fallen tree where it is, there is a huge ecological benefit. The tree may survive as a phoenix tree, it may layer where it is. Even if it doesn’t survive, the habitat and shelter it creates is valuable, as is the return of nutrients to the soil. The fallen wood will protect the soil from compaction from livestock, and may even allow regeneration in a pasture setting. It’s likely that the Cumbrian Ancient Tree Inventory verifiers will have some updating to do!In the longer term, for trees outside woods, the main thing is to protect their root system. Remember that the roots of an open-grown tree extend well beyond the canopy! No guarantees, but avoiding storage of materials, soil compaction or disturbance around the tree is our best bet to retain these beautiful organisms. If you're a landowner or adviser, consider succession planning for open-grown trees, and check out the Ancient Tree Forum website for specific advice.