After the drought

We have had virtually no rain for weeks, even months now, and all the tracks in the forest have gradually turned to dust.  There is a lot of sandy forest around here and especially in the more open areas with little organic matter in the soil, it has been like trying to cycle through a sand pit at times. Large sections of the official routes on the Heuvelrug to the west of Wageningen have been closed and on the sections still open it was often a case of either walking or having to be quite cautious going downhill. The trees and shrubs were looking quite sad with wilting leaves and quite a few large branches just falling off.

But this week it all changed. We had some thunderstorms with significant amounts of rain, and they went on for long enough that it soaked into the ground rather than just running off. The dusty sand turned back into a surface with a decent grip and the temperatures are pleasantly warm rather than enervatingly hot. Most amazing of all, the dead plants have largely sprung back to life. I had expected that of the grasses, after all they are well-known for that, but the bracken fern went from being brown and lifeless to green and verdant within a day.

Not everything has bounced back though. The heathers and bilberries (below) are still looking very poorly. Hopefully they will have enough energy in their roots to spring back next year. But I remember that after the Great Drought year of 1976 a lot of trees looked like they were going to survive and they just didn't come back the next spring, so I hope that's not going to happen this year. On the other hand, these big events are necessary for rejuvenation of the heathland and woodland and if we get more summers like this one then we will see a gradual shift in species to more heat-tolerant, Mediterranean types and those new species will need some open patches to germinate in. That's all very well for the heathland, but all that dry loose sand certainly doesn't make for good mountain biking. 


Pin It