Storm Damage

Storm Arwen - What Next for the Trees of Cumbria

We’re still gauging what the impact is on Cumbria’s trees has been.In the short term, the priority has obviously been to restore power and access to Cumbria’s properties. This is a mammoth task.

Safety first of both public and contractors. Landowners please check the lines of footpaths, roads and bridleways to check for hanging limbs and disturbed root plates.Windblown trees are dangerous. Wood is capable of huge tension, and changing the forces by removing limbs, moving surrounding trees or cutting into a trunk, can have unpredictable and catastrophic results. It’s often difficult to assess whether a tree’s root plate is secure and how the trees interact with one another. Ideally, do the work mechanically from within a steel cab. The operator needs to have the appropriate qualifications (chainsaw use on windblown trees is an advanced and specialist competency), but also have considerable experience – tackling these trees needs a plan!

In the medium term, we will be able to assess the impact on woodlands. This will be achieved best by plane or helicopter aerial survey across the whole of the county.Though the woodland may look devasted, the ecological/biodiversity impact of such a storm on the woodland system is minimal. If you’re able to resist ‘tidying up’; nature loves a mess! We would encourage you to retain as much dead and decaying wood as possible, as the ecosystem desperately needs it. Aerial decaying wood is extremely valuable as well as decaying wood on the ground. Great for saproxylic insects, fungi, and good for the soil. Tangled brash on the woodland floor also encourages natural regeneration providing some protection from browsing herbivores. Holes in the canopy also provide light to the floor encouraging flora, baby trees, and the associated insect and birdlife.

Storm Arwen Response - Panel Discussion

As a response to Storm Arwen, Cumbria Woodlands held a meeting to discuss the next steps for woodlands and trees

Trees Outside Woods

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.

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