Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

Share this story


#ARBatwork #ArbMatters #EmbraceEquity #IWD2023 #PledgeLessPlastic #WomenInArb #WomenInTrees & 12 Faces of Arb 1987 storm 2 Rope 2018 2024 30 Under 30 3ATC 3ATC UK Open 50th annual AA AA award AA Awards Aboricultural Association Accident accreditation Addiction advice AFAG AFL aftercare AGM Agrilus Biguttatus aid air quality Alert Alex Kirkley All Party Parliamentary Group on Horticulture amenity Amenity Conference Anatomy Ancient Tree Forum Annual Awards Anthropology APF APF 2020 APF 2022 app APPGHG application Appointment apprentice apprenticeship Apprenticeships Approved Approved Contractor Approved Contractors ARB ARB Approved Contractor ARB Approved Contractors ARB at work ARB Magazine ARB Show arb training ARB Worker Zone ArbAC ARBatwork ArbCamp Arbor Day Arboretum Arboricultural Association Arboricultural Journal Arboricultural Student Arboriculture arborists Arbsafe Ash Ash Archive ash dieback Asian Hornet Assessments Assessors at atf ATO Australia Autumn Review award Awards Barcham Trees Bark Beetle Bartlett Bartlett Tree Experts bats Bats & Trees beetle Best Student Award beyond ism Bill Matthews biochar biodiversity Biodiversity Net Gain biomechanical biosecurity BNG Book Prize Book Shop Booking Books Bookshop boundaries branch Branches brand Brexit bs5837 BSI Budgeting Tool bursary business Call for Abrstacts Call for Abstracts Call for papers Campout Canker stain of plane Canopy Climbing Collective carbon career careers Cavanagh CAVAT CCS Cellular Confinement Cellular Confinement Systems CEnv CEO Ceratocystis Ceratocystis platani chainsaw chalara charity Charles charter Charter for Trees Chartered Environmentalist chelsea Chelsea Flower Show City & Guilds Claus Mattheck climate climate change climber climbing code Cofor Colleges committees competition competiton conference Conference India Confor conifers conservation Consultant consultation Continuous Professional Development Contractor Contractor Focus Contractors Cornwall Cornwall Branch Coronation Coronavirus Coroner Council Countryside Countryside Code Countryside Stewardship Course for beginners COVID-19 CPD cross industry news Crown & Canopy Cryphonectria parasitica Cumbria DART Date for your diary David Lonsdale deadwood death debate Debt defra deployment Design Devon Director disease diversity DMM document donate dothistroma downloads draft Drought Dutch elm DWP EAC East Anglia ecology Economic Report economy Ecotricity education EFUF Election elections Electricity Elm yellows Emerald Ash Borer England England Tree Action Plan England Tree Strategy English Elm environment Environment Act 2021 environmental EPF Equality equipment Equipment Theft Europe European Arboricultural Council European Forum on Urban Forestry European standards European Wood Pastures EUSTAFOR Event exeter Exhibitors Fall from Height Fatal Fatality felling Fellow Fellow Members Fera Field Trip Finance Fine firewood First Aid FISA flood flooding for Forest Research forestry Forestry Commission forests freelancers FSC Fund4Trees funding fundraiser fungal fungi Future Flora Futurebuild gardening GDPR General Election Geocells Gold Medal Gov.uk government grant grants Grapple Saws Green Brexit Green Infrastructure Green Infratructure Green Recovery Green Up Guarantee guidance Guidance Note Guidance Note 2 guide guides Hazard Tree Health heart-rot Heatwave Hedgerow hedges height Helliwell Help Henry Girling Henry Kuppen History HMRC HOMED Homeworking Honey Brothers honours Horse Chestnut HortAid horticulture horticulturists HortWeek housing HRH HRH Prince Charles HS2 HSE HTA ICF ICoP identification Immigration import industry Industry Code of Practice industry skills Infographic InfraGreen Initiatives Inspiration Insurance Intermediate Tree Inspection International Urban Forestry Congress International Women’s Day International Year of Plant Health invertebrates Investigating Tree Archaeology Conference IPAF Ips Ips typographus Irma irrigation ISA iso ITCC i-Tree IUFC IWD21 Jo Hedger Job Job Centre Plus job opportunity Jobcentre Plus jobs judgement JustGiving Karabiner Keith Sacre Kent Kew Kit land-based Landsaping Landscape Institute Landscape Recovery Scheme Landscape Show landscaping Lantra law Leaf Minor Lectures legal legislation Letters Liability licence Local Authority Treescapes Fund London longevity LTOA Lynne Boddy Magazine Malawi Managegement Plan manifesto maple Mayor of London MBE Melbourne Member Benefit Member Survey Membership Mental Health mentor MEWPs Midlands Morphophysiology moth' motion Moulton College Myerscough NASA National Geographic National Hedgerow Week National Tree Safety Group National Tree Week NATO Natural England NatureScot Netherlands New Year’s Honours News NHS nominations Northern Northumberland Notice notification NTIS NTOA NTOC NTSG Nurseries oak 'oak Oak Processionary Moth Oak-boring Beetle obituary Observatree occupation of OHRG online opm Padua Papua parks parliament Perennial Pest Alert pests Pests & Diseases Pests and Diseases Petersfield petition Petzl photo Phytophthora Phytophthora pluvialis Pine Processionary Moth plan planning Planning Law Plant Health Plant Healthy planting Plantsman Plantsmans Choice Pledge Plumpton College policy poll Poster Power PPE practice Preston Twins Prince Charles Prince of Wales processionary Product Recall Professional Members prosecution Protect and Survive protected tree protection PUWER Qualifications Queen’s 70th Jubilee Questionnaire Quotatis ramorum RC Recruitment Red Diesel reference Reg Harris Registered Registered Consultant Registered Consultants Rehab Rememberance Day renewal REnvP Report Rescue research Research grant Resilience response results Retirement retrenchment review RFS rhs RHS Chelsea Flower Show Ride for Research Ride4Research rigging Rodney Helliwell rogue tree surgeons Royal Forestry Society RSFS Safe Working Practice Safety Safety Bulletin Safety Bulletins Safety Guides Safety Notice Saftey Salaries Sale school science Scotland Scotland Branch Scottish Branch SDG Accord security Seed Gathering Season Seminar seminars Share Sheffield Show Sierra Leone Site Guidance skills skills survey SocEnv Social Benefits of Trees soil soils South East South East Branch South West Speaker spotlight SRT SRWP staff Standards statement Stationary Rope Stationary Rope Technique statutory STIHL Stonehouse Storm strategy student Student Book Prize Student Conference Study Trip Sub-contractors Succession Successsion Supporter survey Sustainable Soils Alliance Sweet Chestnut sweet chestnut blight Sycamore Gap symposium T Level T Levels Tatarian maple TDAG Technical technical guide Technical Guides technical officer Technical Officers Technical Team Technician Members Technology Ted Green Telecommunications tender TG3 Thames & Chiltern The Arboricultural Association The Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committees The Plantsman’s Choice The Queen’s Green Canopy The Woodland Trust Thinking Arbs Thinking Arbs Day Timbersports Tony Kirkham Tools top-handled chainsaws,Elcoat, TPBE4 TPO Trading Standards trailblazer training transport Tree Tree Care Tree Champion Tree Council Tree Fayre tree felling Tree Health Tree Health Week Tree Inspection Tree Life tree loss tree management Tree of the year Tree Officer Tree officers tree pathogen tree planning Tree Planting Tree Production Innovation Fund Tree Protection tree register Tree Risk Tree Shears tree species Tree Supply Tree Surgeon Tree Surgeons Tree Week Tree Work at Height Tree Workers Zone TreeAlert Treeconomics tree-felling TreeRadar trees trees' Trees & Society Trees & Sociey Trees and Society Trees and the Law Trees for Cities Trees, People and the Built Environment trust' trustee Trustees TrustMark Two Rope two-rope typographus UAG Uitlity UK favourite UK&ITCC ukas Ukraine UKWAS urban urban forest Urban Forestry Urban Tree Challenge Urban Tree Challenge Fund Urban Tree Cover Urban Tree Diversity Urban Tree World Cup urban trees UTD4 Utility Approved Contractors Utility Arboriculture Group UTWC vacancy Vanuatu VETcert veteran trees video Videos Virtual ARB Show volunteer voting VTA WAC Wales Wales Branch Warning Watering watering solutions Webinar webinars website Wednesday Webinars Wellbeing Western Westonbirt Wharton White Paper WIA Witley Women Women in Arb women in arboriculture Womens Arb Camp woodland Woodland Carbon Code Woodland Carbon Guarantee woodland trust woods Work Work at Height Workshops World Environment Day World Fungi Day Xylella young Young Arboricultural Professional Young Arboricultural Professional Award young arborists Young People’s Breakfast Event Young Tree Aftercare Youth Programme zoo

When the sky split the forest canopy

Author:  Peter Hasted
Last Updated:  11/12/2023
When the sky split the forest canopy

Peter Hasted, Managing Director of Thanet Urban Forest

A day to remember and a lesson learnt about the catastrophic impact of the European spruce bark beetle.

I’m Peter Hasted and, as the Managing Director of Thanet Urban Forest, I am working to re-green Great Britain by planting trees across the Isle of Thanet and beyond.

Anyone who knows me will tell you just how passionate I am about trees and the importance of caring for and investing in our environment. However, on 7th August this year during a family holiday to Latvia I had a forest experience of a quite different and completely unforgettable kind.

Our day began promisingly, with my partner surprising me and the children by taking us to the Latvian National Forest Nature Park in Tērvete, which is one of the most popular tourist and family-friendly places in Latvia. That morning there was only a 40% chance of rain showers so we decided to pack some waterproofs to enjoy a potentially wet woodland walk. After parking up and paying entrance fees, we walked along the main track into the forest and the sun danced and glistened on the tall, slender silver birch growing in between spruce as we stopped to read the tales of the mythical forest creatures and admire the carvings of toadstools and dwarfs.

As we ventured deeper into the forest, the cloud came over and the sky began to darken and rumble. The forest continued to darken and the rumbling persisted as the air thickened and an unnerving atmosphere developed along the forest floor.

When the sky split the forest canopy
When the sky split the forest canopy
When the sky split the forest canopy
When the sky split the forest canopy

The aftermath of the storm.

Trees snapped like matchsticks

Moments later the wind swirled like a squall and before our eyes, like some divine interference, the forest canopy literally split apart, exposing the biggest, darkest swirl of clouds ever imaginable and the rain began to fall. The children clambered into one of the many tiny gnome lodges along our route to escape the elements. Then, hearing an almighty crack, I spun round to witness a 20-metre crown fall 20 metres to the forest floor. Fearing any trees could potentially fall onto the miniature lodge, we abandoned the structure and found a small clearing along the path. We huddled together watching the canopy flail in the wind as the mature spruces continued to snap like matchsticks, ready to react if any of the trees above our heads started to fall in our direction.

The cracking of branches increased and root plates were torn up from the soil as 40-metre trees fell all around us, blocking paths and terrifying us all. What might otherwise have been an interesting and exciting experience for an arborist became a living nightmare as I didn’t know how best to protect my family – watching the tree crowns above being battered by the extreme weather, fearing that the next crack could be disastrous. We shielded the children while the rain hammered down for what seemed like an eternity. In fact, it was less than ten minutes!

As soon as the winds began to ease, we all ran back along the now unrecognisable path we had walked along just minutes before. Dodging branches and climbing over fallen trees, we discovered a tree had crushed the climbing frame the children had previously been playing on!

Taking sanctuary in one of the educational timber lodges as we dried off, we talked to one of the woodsmen who told us how he could now see daylight through the canopy which hadn’t been possible half an hour before. He said it was a once-in-100-years storm.

For me, it certainly felt like a once in a lifetime experience, and one I wouldn’t wish on any other parent. Thankfully, on this occasion, we all walked out of the woodland unscathed. But I certainly have a greater insight into the potential dangers posed by extreme localised weather events as they increasingly imperil the cherished natural environment we hold dear.

Galleries made by European spruce bark beetle.

Galleries made by European spruce bark beetle. (Photo: Petr Kapitola, Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture, Bugwood.org)

The impact of a spruce bark beetle

Following the experience, I was interested to discover that a pre-existing European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) infestation could have compounded the damage caused by the storm. The forest management team have been actively controlling the beetle since 2019.

The following information about the pest is from Forest Research’s website (see link below). The beetle seems to prefer dead, stressed or weakened trees, but under the right conditions I. typographus can greatly weaken and ultimately kill the spruce (Picea spp.) trees that make up a great proportion of Tērvete forest, thereby making them more susceptible to storm damage and other stressors, such as wildfires. It is better known in the UK as the larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle but has other common names too, including bark beetle, eight-dentate beetle, engraver beetle, eight-spined beetle and spruce bark beetle. A breeding population was discovered in Kent in December 2018 and is currently subject to statutory eradication action.

Forest Research’s website says: ‘Most species of spruce are susceptible to attack by eight-toothed spruce bark beetles, and the widespread presence of Norway spruce in continental Europe means it is the most affected species. The beetles have, however, been observed on other conifer tree species, including fir trees (Abies species), pines (Pinus species) and larches (Larix species).

‘Larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetles are often associated with windblown, damaged and recently-felled spruce trees, where they build up numbers before moving on to attack adjacent live trees. Inspection of trees in this category should therefore be a priority.

‘Look also for individual dead trees, or groups of them. The latter arise when the beetles “mass-attack” trees, overcoming the trees’ usual defences by a combination of large numbers and blue-stain fungus. This phase can lead to extensive tree deaths.

‘If a tree is infested with eight-toothed spruce bark beetle, inspection of the bark, and the wood under the bark, should reveal a linear gallery system, where the females lay their eggs.

‘Larval galleries radiate outward from these linear galleries, becoming wider as the larvae grow as they burrow along. This gallery pattern is unique to this species, and can therefore be relied upon as an indicator of its presence. However, the pattern might not always be as easy to discern as the above description and the picture imply, so any variation should be treated with suspicion and investigated further. Ips beetles are often referred to as “engraver” beetles because of the “engraved” appearance of the galleries.’

If you think you have seen the beetle, the sighting must be reported immediately to the plant health authorities using TreeAlert in Great Britain or TreeCheck in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

As my family and I almost learnt to our cost, the combination of an overwhelming infestation and an extreme weather event can not only prove catastrophic for a forest but also pose a potentially deadly threat to human life.

Peter and his family in the calm before the storm.

Peter and his family in the calm before the storm.

For more information

Forest Research. Larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus). www.bit.ly/46NyFY4

Mammadaba, Latvia. LVM nature park in Tērvete is temporarily closed due to storm damage. www.bit.ly/3F3rChz

Mammadaba, Latvia. ‘Mischiefs’ of European spruce bark beetle at LVM Nature Park in Tērvete. www.bit.ly/3ZIyQkz

All websites accessed 31/10/2023

This article was taken from Issue 203 Winter 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.