Research into the effects of the Great Storm of October 1987

Consequences of wind damage

Wind damage is a natural mechanism which can have important consequences for the ecology of woodlands.  For example it can:

  • Create gaps that allow the regeneration of trees and shrubs
  • Produce open space and bright, sunny, warm conditions that allow flowers, butterflies and other insects to flourish
  • Encourage the development of shrub habitats that will benefit birds and small mammals
  • Provide deadwood (PDF-1830K) following the death of stumps, trunks and branches.

Woodlands and trees are regularly damaged by wind, but its effects are often localised with few trees suffering badly.  The damage frequently goes unnoticed and whilst it is important for woodland regeneration and biodiversity it has been studied relatively rarely in Britain.

Initial research

The damage caused by the October 1987 storm was widespread, very obvious and initiated a flurry of interest amongst ecologists with more than 20 studies being established in the immediate aftermath of the storm.  Early results from many of these were published (see below) in the mid-1990s and subsequently there have been several reports from longer-term studies, a list of selected publications is available.

Studies carried out by Forest Research have concentrated on the natural regeneration of trees within damaged woodlands.

Selected list of references relating to research following the 1987 storm

Anon. (1988). The effects of the Great Storm.  Report of a Technical Co-ordination Committee and the Government’s response. HMSO, London. 45p.

Grayson, A. J. (1989). The 1987 Storm: Impacts and Responses.  Forestry Commission Bulletin 87, HMSO, London, UK, 46p.

Harmer, R. (2002). Restocking after storm damage from an English perspective.  In: A. Brunner (ed) Restocking of storm-felled forests: new approaches.  Proceedings of an international workshop in Denmark, March 2001.  Danish Centre for Forest, Landscape and Planning, Report No. 12, Hørsholm, Denmark, 47-51.

Harmer, R. and Morgan, G. (2009). Storm damage and the conversion of conifer plantations to native broadleaved woodland. Forest Ecology and Management, 258, 879-886.

Harmer, R., Tucker, N. and Nickerson, R. (2004). Natural regeneration in storm damaged woods – 1987 storm sites revisited (PDF-221K).  Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 98, 183-190.

Kirby, K. J. and Buckley, G. P. (eds) (1994). Ecological responses to the 1987 Great storm in the woods of south-east England.  English Nature Science No. 23, English Nature, Peterborough, UK, 170p.

Mountford, E. P. (2002). Storm-damage and natural regeneration in Shellem Wood, an ancient semi-natural beechwood in south-east England.  Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 96, 195-204.

Mountford, E. P. and Peterken, G. F. (2000). Natural developments at Scords Wood, Toy’s Hill, Kent, since the Great storm of October 1987.  English Nature Research Reports No. 346, 27p.

Mountford, E. P. and Peterken, G. F. (2001). Long-term changes in an area of The Mens, a minimum intervention woodland damaged by the Great Storm of 1987. English Nature Research Report No. 435.

Spencer, J. W. and Feest, A. (eds) (1994). The rehabilitation of storm-damaged woods.  Bristol University Department for Continuing Education, Bristol, UK, 92p.

Whitbread, T. (1991a). When the wind blew, Royal Society for Nature Conservation, Lincoln, UK. 61p.

Whitbread, A. M. (1991b). Research on the ecological effects on woodland of the 1987 storm.  Research and Survey in Nature Conservation No. 40, Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough, UK, 102p.

Whitbread, A. M. (1994). Surveys of storm-damaged woods set up in 1987-88.  In: K. J. Kirby and G. P. Buckley (eds) Ecological responses to the 1987 Great Storm in the woods of south-east England.  English Nature Science 23, English Nature, Peterborough, UK, 24-31.