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How the Great Storm's legacy helped Sussex wildlife thrive
The Great Storm of 1987 brought chaos and destruction to the lives of most people. But in the woodlands of Sussex, it provided a welcome legacy to wildlife and their habitat.
Dr Tony Whitbread, the chief executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust, believes the storm could have been the catalyst for a new platform of life for the birds and mammals of the woods.
He said: “The immediate effects from the storm were to cause damage and indeed some animals died. But in the longer term it created a more diverse habitat.
“We would expect more vegetation, more plants and more shrubs. It could have introduced diversity into woodlands that were overshadowed and dark before the storm.
“Animals steam in to make use of the great structural diversity now found in these woods.”
Severe storms only make an appearance once every 100 to 200 years, meaning they are seen as once-in-a-life time tragedies.
Fallen trees and the opening up of the woodland after the 1987 damage meant animals like dormice were given new opportunities to find a home.
The mice normally live in the shrub layers on trees, but with the chance to build more nests from fallen trees and a new environment to suit, their population numbers have increased.
They build round nests of grass, leaves, bark and moss and would have made good use of any debris the storm left.
Living underground, badgers wouldn’t have been directly affected by the damage of the storm.
Being herbivores, however, they have thrived because of the new selection of plants and flowers that have sprouted following the change in the ecology while birds and bats have also taken advantage of the storm.
Dr Whitbread said: “Birds can get in to nest and forage, insects find a home and wild flowers grow. The bats would have loved damaged trees as their chance to find a roosting site.
“Hole-nesting birds like woodpeckers would have also benefited. Birds like willow warbler, black-cap and nightingale could find shrubs to nest in and insects to forage on and woodpeckers found trees to live in.
See today's Argus for a special 8-page supplement looking back at the impact of the Great Storm in Sussex - or click here to see a gallery of pictures from the storm.