This section gives the trees' histories. Forest trees grow much more slowly than those in parks and gardens, where they are likely to be tended. There are several elements that affect a tree’s well being:
The soil quality. The Forestry Commission often grows trees on land that can’t be used for arable farming. Despite being part of Rockingham Forest for over 1000 years, the predominantly clay soil at Fineshade means that growing wheat (for example) is going to be inefficient in today’s farming terms. This means that there are not many nutrients in the soil to support tree growth.
The amount of soil. When you see first see a fallen tree, it is surprising about how little soil a large tree can actually grow on. This tree is still alive (in that it is still transpiring) for several years even when it has toppled over. It is just growing more slowly than it would do if it was still rooted in soil.
The amount of water. If the tree dehydrates too much it can’t fully transpire so it shuts down in order to survive. Too much water can wash away the soil.
The seasonal temperature. This is the big game changer for three reasons. As temperatures rise the lack of water affects the trees transpiration – its internal dialogue between creating chlorophyll, xylem and hardwood is compromised. Sunshine is great for chlorophyll production, but requires water to support this process. The second problem is that as temperatures rise, new insects can prey on trees. This has happened with the Processionary Oak Moth, previously found much further south. Really cold weather also impact a tree's growth. A week of extremely dry or cold weather won't affect a mature tree (although it might with a sapling), but a month or two of it certainly will.
The origin of trees. The trees that are familiar to us have moved around the world through humans moving saplings or seeds. For example, there are now about 600 species of oak around the world. However importing any plant brings risk of disease, hence ash dieback (Chalara Fraxinea). By tracing back these migration routes, it may be possible to study trees that have built up a resistance to a disease.
Tree density. This means that each tree is competing for light, nutrients and water, although high tree density can offer tree's protection from strong winds if they are growing in very little soil.
Swansea University have analysed the Fineshade tree cores and it is mostly really good news.