Storm Ali gives a helping hand to bugs

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Flanders Moss NNR

Storm Ali has certainly left its mark across central Scotland, strong winds when there are still leaves on the trees is always likely to cause more damage. So first thing on Thursday, once the winds have dropped, I went down to check the path at Flanders to see if any tree were down. Of the 3 Stirling NNRs this is the one place where there is a path through woodland.  And the woodland at Flanders is young and spindly so the trees are more vulnerable to strong winds.

My walk along the path identified 4 trees that had been snapped off by the wind but luckily none were near the path. So what now? The first thing is to assess if the tree is a danger to visitors. If it isn’t a problem then we leave it.

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Wind damage to trees is a natural process in woodland and produces niches and habitats for specialist invertebrates and fungi that might not get to live in a clean tidy woodland. Naturally broken branches and trunks allow the rotting process to gradually invade the tree and there are insects that will use each stage of the rotting process, from fresh exposed timber to crumbly, rotten wood. And the trees don’t always die but regrow from the break zones. Once you get your eye in you can see evidence of past storms in the trees around Flanders offering the variety of habitats biodiversity requires.

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Plenty of bracket fungi on a previously storm damaged tree.

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A rot hole where a branch has broken off.

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Old wind damage with the tree regrowing and fungi on the dead part.

So Storm Ali has actually given invertebrates a bit of a helping hand. The woods around the edge of Flanders are young, are mainly birch and are spindly trees so are never going to have some of the really rare deadwood invertebrates that live in ancient forersts with huge old trees but anything we can do to increase the diversity in these woods is good for wildlife.

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