Experience the aftermath of Storm Arwen; Complex ties between trees and fungi

Storm with a silver lining?

Winter brings storms, and so when Storm Arwen was forecast, it was not unexpected. It came from the North, which is unusual, and brought a fall of snow. It wasn’t until I arrived in the office on Monday that I began to appreciate that the county had been hit by something substantial.

Whilst damage has been sporadic, in some woodlands, 70-80% of the trees have been affected. Since the storm, my time has been spent co-ordinating the clear-up on Council sites and responding to ‘5 Day Notices’. These are issued when a tree, which is subject to a Tree Preservation Order, needs urgent work for safety reasons.

Many trees have been damaged, but I am exploring alternatives to felling where possible.

For example, one Small Leaf Lime, an ancient tree listed on the Ancient Tree Inventory, with two main trunks, split in two (pictured bottom right on this page).

However, with this tree, all is not lost. Lime trees can naturally regenerate, layering from the roots, so I am looking to work with the landowner to see if we

can encourage this. I am not sure that I will encounter such a storm again in my career! I think it has had the same impact in the North as the storm of 1987 did in the South-East.

When Storm Barra followed Storm Arwen, I feared for the worst. There is a line of Douglas Fir which were damaged by the first storm, and the impact of heavy snow, but apart from a few branches, thankfully they were not affected by Barra.

During the first week following the storm, the phone barely stopped ringing! Is there a silver lining? I am looking for it. What I do know is that whereas before, there would be an emphasis on tidying up the dead wood and removing the remains, we now appreciate the value of the dead wood for ecological habitats. The ability of some trees, such as Limes, to regenerate, is appreciated and is something I am working on.

It may be that reflections on how some trees have responded to the storm will inform tree management in the future. One aspe

ct of the storm that has surprised me is that some ash trees marked for felling due to Ash Dieback were untouched. Perhaps these trees had only recently been infected, with the brittle nature associated with this condition becoming more prevalent as the fungus spreads.

l The photographs show the aftermath of Storm Arwen. All images provided by Lucy Saunders.

Complex relationship between tree and fungi

We have been looking at the relationship between trees and fungi, based on the book by Professor Lynne Boddy [Trees & Fungi, Their Complex Relationship].

In part 1 (featured last month) Lynne explored what a fungus is which she covered in chapter 1 of her book. This month, we summarise chapter 2 – where fungi are found within a tree.

Until recently, it was thought that trees were sterile until fungi entered through a pruning wound,where they would cause damage and decay, and often kill the host.

Recent research has shown that this is often not the case.

Many species of fungi live within a tree and most are beneficial. Some live within the roots and soil, and help the tree to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.

Others are within the bark, making the movement of water and sugars more efficient. Some are in the leaves, providing toxins to stop grazing of foliage, and to assist with photosynthesis. Far from the tree being a sterile environment, it is actually incomplete without the fungi.

Many of the decay fungi are actually unpacking dead cells of the nutrients stored within, which is beneficial.

Sometimes, these fungi can cause problems as the host becomes weakened by the decay process, and assessing when this is happening is part of the skill of the tree inspector.

A handful of fungi are pathogenic, in that they will seek to colonise an otherwise healthy tree and decay wood that is not yet dead.

[vc_images_carousel images=”1656,1655,1654,1653,1652,1651″ img_size=”full” speed=”4000″ slides_per_view=”2″ autoplay=”yes” wrap=”yes” title=”The aftermath of Storm Arwen, as photographed by Lucy Saunders, Trees and Woodland Officer for the Lake District National Park Authority”]
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