What is wrong with Staffordshire Trees?

The County Forestry Officer, Stephen Potter, treated members to a fascinating analysis of "What is wrong with Staffordshire Trees?" when he addressed the exceptionally well attended meeting on Tuesday 20th September. From the broader world-wide canvas he drew examples of awareness such as the 1970s German recognition of 'forest death' among their conifers having yellowing and more frequent leaf falls. More recently, and nearer to home, in 1985 Friends of the Earth claimed that the UK was in the grip of forest death as a result of acid rain while the Forestry Commission were attributing problems to climate, insects and fungus.

The loose use of 'acid rain', the product of industrial and domestic air pollution, to explain the world-wide problem was thought to be an over simplification of a much more complex cause. Acid rain, climate, insects, fungi and ozone were seen by Stephen Potter to be the cause of much damage, with ozone being a major factor. He pointed out that the increase in Carbon Dioxide since 1700 had been measured by carbon dating, with more recent acceleration bringing about the 'greenhouse effect', a genuine cause for current concern.

In Staffordshire, and no doubt elsewhere, man is guilty of subjecting trees to the assault and to stress. Ill-considered pruning, the building of houses and the laying of roads too close to mature trees, land drainage and the lowering of water tables were all part of the multiple causes; resulting in damage and death. A dismal picture was painted by an acknowledged expert who kept his audience interested throughout a lengthy and complex discourse. The value of this evening and the interest it generated was evident from the quality of questions - terminated only by the clock.

Ivor Mitchell
September 1988