The wind howled and rain lashed down, leaving devastating scenes of lush woodlands ripped apart by furious storms like a hot knife through butter.

Storm Arwen brought a trail of destruction, with tens of thousands of trees across Scotland toppled by 100mph gales, power lines down and roofs ripped from buildings.

Now, however, it’s emerged the devastating November storm – and the destruction caused by more recent storms Malik and Corrie – may actually turn out to be a force for good.

For although vast areas of woodland have been floored, the destruction is being seen by some as a chance to kickstart a new era of woodland diversity, with dead trees left on the woodland floor to provide new homes for insects and fungi, and the chance to create new plantations rich in native species.

According to George Anderson of the Woodland Trust, which lost up to 2,500 trees alone at its Huntly Wood site in Perthshire, the devastation has helped to speed up plans to replace less desirable species like Sitka spruce with oak, rowan, Scots pine and birch.

And although the loss of thousands of trees may look unsightly now, in years to come they could grow into a patchwork of more attractive species harbouring a wealth of woodland wildlife.

“The day after Storm Arwen, everything looked terrible. But it’s actually not as bad as it seems,” he said.

“The main thing after losing trees in a storm is to make sure it’s made safe, but it also allows us to manage the area and introduce more diverse stock.

“A lot of places badly hit were old style plantations of the same trees, all the same height. We would be looking to replace that with something a more natural mixed woodland.

“In many places, the loss of trees has accelerated our plans to replace with something more natural.”

In some cases, fallen trees will not be removed. Instead they will be left to rot, providing a natural haven for wildlife and bringing sunlight to areas of the forest floor which would otherwise be overshadowed by trees.

Storm Arwen hit on November 25, and over three days of wild wind and lashing rain travelled from the north and down the east coast, leaving a trail of destruction across the country.

There was barely time to catch breath before storms Malik and Corrie hit.

It’s estimated eight million trees were affected by the storms in Scotland and four million in England. Three people died in Storm Arwen, and more than 9,000 were left without power for several days.

In East Lothian, huge areas of John Muir Country Park - dedicated to the 19th-century conservationist John Muir - were flattened, with towering pine trees left scattered across the ground like broken matches.

While at Tentsmuir Forest in north east Fife, a popular spot for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, the wind cut a trail through a large section of trees and left hundreds more unstable.

Damage caused to trees by Storm Arwen was particularly severe because it came from the north rather than south-west, where trees and woodlands are better adapted to withstand winds from the Atlantic.

“When plantations are all the same size, you get a domino effect,” added George. “Some of the highest trees are blown down and the ones behind are not used to the wind and are vulnerable.

“That happened at John Muir Country Park. All the trees were the same size, and they toppled like dominoes.

“What we really want to create in woodlands is diversity: little trees, medium sized and big trees. So if a tree comes down, the others around it are less likely to fall.”

He added: “The response in the past to this kind of event would have been to quickly plant another lot of trees in same system, and same species.

“Instead, we are looking at more bushes at ground level, rowan trees, oak and Scots pine rather than just pine.

“The storm has given us a clean slate.”

It is also providing a chance to allow dead and rotting wood to rest on the woodland floor, providing new wildlife habitats and enabling fungus and bugs to flourish.

“An old beech tree that has toppled and is lying flat will be an amazing boost for biodiversity in a wood. It will produce lots of insects, going up chain to birds and bats,” he added.

In the past, dead trees would have been cleared away as part of ‘forest hygiene’, amid concerns that naturally occurring fungus on a decaying tree could harm other trees.

“But we are increasingly learning more about the role of fungus,” he added. “There’s more going on with trees than we ever thought, and that natural state of decay and fungus is beneficial.”

According to John Mackie, Regulations and Development Manager for the Grampian Conservancy of Scottish Forestry, the storms have brought certain benefits.

In a blog for the Dee Catchment Partnership, a group which cares for the River Dee, he said: “Opportunities now exist to improve forest structures, especially in sensitive areas such as the River Dee catchment.

“Storm events like these bring about succession – patterns of change in ecosystems when a new environment is formed, or after an existing environment is disturbed.

“Viewed in this way, wind-felled trees are less an exceptional, catastrophic phenomenon and more a recurrent, natural disturbance that drives ecosystem patterns and processes.”

Scottish Forestry has received more than 250 tree-felling permission applications related to storm damage, with around 3,600 hectares of woodland affected, equating to more than 1 million cubic metres of timber.

The organisation is working with Land and Forestry Scotland and Confor, the trade association for the forestry industry, to assess damage, manage resources and find markets for windblown trees.

It includes a significant amount of pine which degrades quicker than other tree species and can suffer ‘blue stain’ if left too long. As a result, a race is on to recover it and deliver it to timber processors.

Jason Hubert, Head of Business Development at Scottish Forestry, said the storms had brought down approximately 20% of Scotland’s annual timber production and will take up to two years to absorb.

“The large mainstream forestry sector is already planning, so it knows where the machines are that can handle the removal of trees, which markets will buy what and several things are being rejigged to allow for the more urgent need to tackle the amount of pine that has come down.

“Some of that will be used for fencing to replace fences damaged in the storm, construction timber, biomass for fuel or chipped to make OSB panels.”

Talks are due to be held with Scottish Land & Estates, and the National Farmers Union to help landowners who have large amounts of fallen trees and need help cutting them and selling them to the forestry sector.

He added: “This is an opportunity for people who have a woodland to think about different species and how to make it more resilient to future storms.”