Winter storm Eleanor felled 1.3 million cubic metres of trees in Switzerland
The amount of wood derived from trees uprooted by storm Eleanor in the first week of January is 1.3 million cubic metres, the Swiss federal environment office (BAFU) announced on Wednesday.
Eleanor – known as Burglind in Switzerland – battered Europe on January 3rd and 4th, bringing hurricane strength winds, heavy rain and rail to Switzerland.
The storm uprooted trees, overturned train carriages and sparked landslides and avalanches, leaving insurers with a bill of over 50 million francs.
Though Eleanor didn’t actually create as much damage as expected, forests on the Swiss plains and in the Jura were particularly affected, as well as those in the cantons of Bern, Lucerne and Solothurn, the environment office said.
The 1.3 million cubic metres of wood felled by the storm amounts to around a quarter of the country’s annual wood consumption.
And the figure doesn’t even take into account additional damage to forests by storm Evie, which passed through Switzerland on Wednesday.
However, it is far lower than the damage caused by hurricane Lothar in 1999, which caused ten times the destruction of Eleanor, far more than annual national consumption, BAFU said.
As yet it is difficult to assess the consequences of Eleanor’s impact on forests because much of rural Switzerland is currently covered in snow.
But BAFU is working on the principle that much of the felled wood can be used and sold during the winter season.
Several planned loggings have been postponed in the affected regions in order to avoid saturating the market, it said.
One concern is that fungus can quickly grow on felled spruce trees and the effects won’t be seen until spring.
But experience of previous storms shows that such events can create light and deadwood in forests which are beneficial to biodiversity, said BAFU.