We’ve published a new report about tree coring, called A review of the theory and practice of tree coring on live ancient and veteran trees. Here, our Woodlands Policy & Advice Officer Kate Holl tells us more about tree coring and the importance of ancient trees, and explains why we’ve done this research.
Ancient and veteran trees (AVTs) aren’t just beautiful and inspirational – they provide an essential link to historic land-use. They are especially important for the wide range of other associated plants and animals, which require the very special environment created in an old tree. Britain has one of the highest populations of veteran trees in Europe, and so we have an international responsibility to protect and manage these very special trees.
The pattern of distinct tree-rings that is visible in sawed wood has been observed at least since the 16th Century when Leonardo da Vinci remarked on the effects of weather and drought on the size of rings in sawed pine.
Annual rings of old trees are historical records in their own right, illustrating past climate changes or cutting treatments. The study of these rings is known as dendrochronology. Today, dendrochronological principles inform the study of a wide range of subjects from climate change to landscape history, archaeology, and even the frequency and impacts of avalanches!
While many people think seeing a tree’s rings requires cutting the tree down, the tree ring pattern can be examined by coring the main trunk using a special tool to extract a pencil-thin core of wood from a tree for subsequent examination. The data collected from coring trees in the UK feeds in to a worldwide network that provides important data for a variety of scientific and practical applications.
However, tree coring unavoidably creates an injury to that tree. So the question arises, how serious and what are the implications of the injury, and how to balance this with any benefits from tree coring? To investigate this question further, we partnered with Historic England and Natural England to commission research on the damage coring may have on ancient and veteran trees (AVTs).
This report, published today, concludes that coring AVTs may be harmful to some of these trees. Given the considerable value of the AVT resource and its potential vulnerability, a general precautionary approach to coring is recommended. The report further recommends that there is a need to bring together professionals and practitioners with conservation, dendrochronology and arboricultural interests in tree coring to improve information sharing and to explore and develop common standards for coring practice and data recording.
Following the findings, SNH plans to embark on a project to develop Best Practice Guidance for coring AVTs in consultation with the professional community to obtain a workable and widely acceptable Best Practice document for coring AVTs. If you are interested in being involved in this work then do please get in touch by emailing Kate.Holl@nature.scot.