Monday 30 October 2017

The benefits of storms

Thirty years after the Great Storm of 1987 - Britain's worst since 1703 - it is worth considering some of the benefits of storms. It is a topic I tackle in my book Storm: Nature and Culture.

The tempest brought down about 15 million trees in Britain, and in one place that had been badly hit, Toys Hill in Kent, the National Trust did an experiment. One area was cleared and replanted, while an other was left alone so nature could take its course. This one did better, producing a far wider variety of trees and flowers.

In the US, some scientists said that while storms like Sandy and 'Snowtober' also felled trees, they too brought an explosion of biodiversity in animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi. Another benefit claimed for storms is that native species tend to survive them better than imported ones.

Lightning can liberate nitrogen atoms in the air which fall to the earth with water and act as natural fertilisers. While fires started by strikes clear undergrowth and debris from woods, turning it into nutrients, and they allow sunlight and water to penetrate through to germinating seeds on the forest floor.

For more, see Storm: Nature and Culture, published by Reaktion Books.

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