Wildlife watch Beech trees are the fall guys of Scotland
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