Experts highlight need to tackle more flood stress

Tree managers should expect to have to deal with greater stress to trees from flooding and root submergence as a result of more frequent extreme weather, two prominent researchers have warned.

In a review paper published by the Arboricultural Association last month, Bartlett Tree Experts research technician and plant ecologist Luke Hailey and Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory manager Dr Glynn Percival said: "It appears highly likely that UK trees will be faced with greater stress caused by increased flooding levels and prolonged partial submergence. As a result, the arboricultural industry will need to be prepared to aid in the prevention and remediation of the detrimental effects of long-term flooding on trees."

Detailing the impacts of prolonged flooding on tree biology, it explains remedial measures and aftercare management including soil decompaction, drainage and aeration as well as the potential of soil amendments including biochar, mycorrhizal inoculants, novel peroxidase compounds, sugars, nitrogen fertilisation, plant-protection products, mulching and plant-growth regulators.

"Flooding is a seemingly simple issue that damages trees via multiple mechanisms," Hailey told HW. "The most pressing issue is the lack of oxygen in the root zone. Flooding also negatively alters soil structure, microbiology and nutrient availability. Pest and disease attacks take place during flood stress or on weakened trees afterwards."

He explained: "The current Bartlett strategy for aiding trees in flooded areas is to apply nitrogen fertilisers and increase drainage if possible. Our current all-star soil amendment biochar is also being applied where possible. Holistic plant health care treatments such as carbohydrate drenches, mulching and pest monitoring and management can follow after to ensure tree recovery."

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