How scientists in the Yorkshire Dales are charting the impact of trees on extreme weather from lighting storms to flooding
Scientists, in world-leading research, are now to explore more in determining the effect of trees on weather extremes from storms to lightning and flooding.
The Woodland Trust started work at Snaizeholme near Hawes earlier this year, planting one of the largest contiguous new native woodlands.And with a team of scientists to carry out tests over the next 20 years, this is one of the biggest pieces of scientific research ever in the English uplands.
This is an area known for its harsh conditions - as well as for its red squirrel population - and Snaizeholme sees around 200cm of rain each year.
Experts are to track the impact, with tests for soil properties and streamflow, helping them to understand flood mitigation as the new trees start to grow.
There are temperature sensors, high tech 'lightning detectors' and mobile weather stations. And Dr John Crawford, conservation evidence officer for the trust, said teams will be able to measure even tiny changes in the ecosystem as the woodland matures and grows.
"We know mature woodlands deliver a range of important benefits," he said. "Less is known about new woodlands. The research has the power to be a game changer when it comes to how such a new site can combat the extreme effects of climate change."
Some of the world's leading scientists are to lead the charge, with specialists from both the University of York and the University of Leeds.Many centuries ago this area would have seen vast swathes of woodland, but across the Yorkshire Dales National Park tree cover is now at less than five per cent.
The Woodland Trust is planning to plant almost 291 hectares with native saplings, creating groves, glades and open woodlands. Another key focus will be researching how new trees alter the properties of soil - and how much carbon they can lock away.
Prof Dominick Spracklen, from the University of Leeds, said restoring habitats across a whole valley could bring big benefits.
"We have used a computer model to calculate that restoring the valley would reduce downstream flooding during a 1-in-50-year storm event by nearly 10 per cent," he explained. "To check that our predictions are correct , we are now installing special equipment to monitor soil and vegetation properties, rainfall and river flow."
And Dr Rob Mills, from the University of York, said opportunities to create and restore habitats at this scale are rare in England.
He added: "Snaizeholme provides a unique opportunity to understand how carefully restoring a rich mosaic of habitats provides a range of benefits for people, nature and climate.”