Forestry Commission figures released today reveal that more than half (64 per cent) of the 100,000-plus woodlands across southern England were likely to have been affected by the St Jude storm in some way but very few woodlands should suffer long term damage.
The figures estimate the impact from the St Jude storm in October 2013 on trees and woodlands ranging from Cornwall to Suffolk. More damage was found between Wiltshire and Kent with little or no damage recorded at the south-west and north-east extremes of the survey area.
The Forestry Commission’s National Incident Management Team organised a survey of over 160 woodlands over two weeks. They were searching for trees blown over or snapped and looking at damage to their crowns to assess overall woodland damage.
Most damaged trees are very likely to be left where they are and will turn in to valuable dead wood habitats for wildlife.
Richard Greenhous, Director of Forest Services at the Forestry Commission said:
"Sadly the storm left behind some personal tragedies but fortunately our woodlands proved resilient. They should readily recover from localised damage without seriously affecting local woodland and timber businesses and there could even be a benefit to wildlife conservation.
“Although around 70,000 woods were affected by the storm, the level of damage within the vast majority of these woods was low. Crown damage was highest at 3.7% of all trees across the storm area, but these trees will recover from that damage.
“One per cent of larger trees across the storm area were blown over, plus another 0.5 % snapped around halfway up the trunk. In hard numbers this could account for around 10 million trees 'lost' from the woodlands as a result of this natural event, but we must remember that more than 650 million remain.
“The trees around and below those that are damaged or will die will compensate for this loss and grow into the gap left in the canopy. During that time additional light will reach in to the forest encouraging ground flora and wildlife in general.
“Windthrown and snapped trees were very thinly distributed across woods so harvesting this material would be uneconomic and most will be left in the woods. By time the woodlands are mature enough to supply timber they should have recovered any lost volume.
“The dead trees left behind by the storm will contribute to deadwood stocks in the forest and this will be a bonus for biodiversity, providing additional food sources and breeding habitats for flora and fauna such as lichens, fungi and invertebrates."
Woodland owners and managers who may be concerned or need help or advice about storm damage to their woodland should contact their Agent or Forestry Commission Area Office.