Wildlife watch Beech trees are the fall guys of Scot­land

Hamilton Advertiser - - GOLDEN COUPLES -

Scot­tish Wildlife Trust’s Falls of Clyde Wildlife Re­serve as­sis­tant ranger Jenny Mann would like to tell read­ers about trees.

A few weeks ago we saw just how much dam­age strong winds can cause in a few hours.

Many trees came down across the whole coun­try, and here at the Falls of Clyde we al­most had to spend a night in the of­fice, due to a road block at New La­nark.

While the de­struc­tion of old trees isn’t some­thing we want to see, it is ac­tu­ally some­thing we should be ex­pect­ing over the com­ing years.

You may not have no­ticed, but a large pro­por­tion of the trees blown down by Storm Ali were beech (fa­gus syl­vat­ica); this is a species with a shal­low root struc­ture, mak­ing it more sus­cep­ti­ble to wind dam­age than many of our na­tive species.

In re­cent years, beech has been con­sid­ered to have some­thing of an iden­tity cri­sis, be­cause sci­en­tists were un­sure whether or not the species we find in Scot­land was, in fact, na­tive.

This is be­cause beech trees are naturally found only in south­ern parts of Eng­land.

Those in Scot­land – usu­ally lin­ing roads and av­enues – were brought up in the Vic­to­rian pe­riod, and have colonised our coun­try­side well ever since.

Last year, the ex­perts fi­nally dis­cov­ered that the species grow­ing in Scot­land did orig­i­nate from the UK and not main­land Europe... but that still doesn’t help with the prob­lem we have of them blow­ing over eas­ily!

In fact, as many of these beech trees are of sim­i­lar age, they will be­come weaker at the same time and in high winds their root sys­tems may not have the ca­pac­ity to sup­port their weight.

Beech is wide­spread across main­land Europe, ex­cept in Scan­di­navia, which ex­pe­ri­ences sim­i­lar weather to Scot­land.

It is likely that this species prefers a calmer cli­mate.

How­ever, our an­ces­tors were not think­ing about that when they planted them here, over 100 years ago!

Dam­aged Sev­eral beech trees were dam­aged at the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Re­serve dur­ing a re­cent storm, which prompted ques­tions about its ori­ginPic­ture: Jon Hawkins - Sur­rey Hills Pho­tog­ra­phy

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