Tree Conservation Lessons Learned Since England's Great Storm of 1987

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

It's been 25 years since the Great Storm of 1987 and it still remains a significant date for gardeners and conservationists in south east England.

Not only was it the worst storm/hurricane since 1703, causing a billion pounds worth of damage but also 15 million trees were blown down.

Some facts and figures: of 15 million trees felled, 12 million were in forests and three million in parks, estates and along leafy avenues. Losses included six of the Sevenoaks of Kent, 100 trees at Hampton Court, 700 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and 300 in Hyde Park.

On the occasion of the anniversary, it is interesting to learn how the disaster resulted in better tree conservation methods and the growth of grass roots activism with regards to forest conservation.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

1. Massive Replanting

Since 1987 the National Trust alone has planted more than 500,000 trees. Since that time more than 500 million saplings have been planted in the UK and tree cover in Britain is now greater than it has been for 150 years.

2. Valuing Woodland Habitats

Initially many people were concerned with cleaning up the mess from the trees and getting rid of all the limbs and trunks. Quickly the realization came that leaving the trunks to decay in place was a better way. This provided a habitat for wildlife, birds, bugs and wildflowers. One group quickly swung into action within a week and distributed 56,000 postcards with slogans: "A fallen tree is not a dead tree" and "Don't chop them up".

Public acceptance has grown of the benefits of wilderness areas and rotting tree stumps. Now people realize that "woods are not destroyed, they just change."

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

3. More Grass-roots Involvement

A national programme, the Tree Council, was established as was the Tree Warden Scheme. It has more than 7,500 volunteers who act as planters and advisors on trees, woodlands and local nature conservation.

Trees for Cities was started to protect trees in cities and plant and tend more of them.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

4. Planting of Different Species of Trees

New and different kinds of trees were planted: less conifers and more broad-leafed trees. Some tree types survived better than others: giant redwood (because of its shape and the fact that they are adapted to coping with winds), evergreen oak (Quercus ilex), Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica), hazel, willow, holly and juniper.

Tags: Gardening | Repair | resilience | United Kingdom | Weather