‘There’s beeches still, at the moment, affected by the 1976 drought…’

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Neil describes trees by the river, specifically beeches, which are susceptible to drought, describing some that are still affected by the 1976 drought. Invasive species and pathogens attack trees which have been weakened in a drought. Neil expresses his concern for a 2 degree rise in temperature which could have a profound effect, including soil loss, increased runoff.

In the catchment, I’ve seen a number of beeches that have fallen. They’re notorious susceptible because they’ve got shallow root systems but that makes them also susceptible to drought conditions as well so any sort of increases in temperature and they’ll be affected. There’s beeches still, at the moment, affected from the 1976 drought so, you know, that’s how long they get affected for. It weakens them. It weakens, basically, their immune system and so invasive species that possibly, might not affect them, and pathogens that possibly might not affect them, initially, because of the drought conditions, can actually weaken them and create shock and make them topple, in that respect as well. So with proposed, say, two degree rise in temperatures, could be a big change in British woodlands, in terms of beech trees really. And they think beech trees, in Britain, are more susceptible than ones in sort of southern European regions, as well. Which, you’d think it would be the other way round but, for some reason, because of their being used to rain systems, they’re not as hardy. Beech trees were killed in 1976 and there’s still stress from that year. It led to a reduction in beech trees.

When you’ve got a lot of beech trees, in an area, and they start disappearing, then you’re gonna have much more surface run off which will affect water courses and sedimentation in the rivers which, obviously, is a big, big factor in a lot of rivers failing on their water framework directive targets, basically. Surface run off and soil reduction. And then also, getting rid of the nutrient layer of the soil as well so invasive species, especially Himalayan balsam, for example, doesn’t need nutrient layer, really. It grows very well on reduced nutrient soils. You know, all these things are kind of linked so it, I think, especially with trees, reducing their ability to counteract invasive species that might become, might be there already, I think that’s the big one.

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