Trees: Let's get the planting in perspective

Woodland BirchThe government has a stated commitment to increase UK tree planting to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025 as part of its strategy to combat climate change and achieve net zero by 2050.

Whilst we recognise that planting trees is an important tool in the drive to offset carbon emissions, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) believes that the ‘right tree in the right place’ approach is vital. There are plenty of opportunities for increasing woodland cover in our landscapes that do not require the repurposing of land. For instance, the GWCT has estimated that planting a tree every 20 metres in 58% of English hedgerows would significantly contribute towards the policy target, with the potential to host 14 million trees without repurposing a single acre of land, even allowing for planting strategies that omit open arable landscapes or the rough pastures and meadows of the hill fringe.

In contrast, the proposals put forward by other conservation organisations could result in significant disruption to the ecosystem balance in some areas. For example, the map drawn up by Friends of the Earth and Terra Sulis, which identifies land parcels deemed most suitable for tree planting, show that many of the areas are the rough pastures and meadows of the hill-fringe (e.g. in the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales). These habitats are of critical importance for red-listed species such as curlew, lapwing, redshank, snipe, grey partridge and black grouse. Many of these species are the subject of international biodiversity obligations.

Focusing only on the relative agricultural productivity of the land misses the point, because these low intensity traditional hill farming areas often foster biodiversity, both flora and fauna. These areas have been identified by Natural England and Forestry Commission in their guidance note ‘Guidance for afforestation proposed on or near nationally important upland breeding wader areas’ as areas to avoid planting, and we support this. For a conservation organisation not to be more aware of the bigger picture when promoting tree planting is concerning.

This shows that an environmental policy initiative that focuses on one aspect of or solution to a desired outcome can be dangerous, as it fails to consider the inter-related, complexities of our landscape. Land management is often the foundation for many of these relationships, and so any change in the management approach should consider the wider impacts as well as the potential benefits of that change.

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tree planting

at 1:29 on 09/12/2020 by Richard Playle

So HMG is committed to planting 30,000 hec of trees each year by 2025 that will be 66,000 acres ! now I am not a scientist but if they want to do 66,000 acres each year from 2025 onwards after 10 years ,,,2035 they will have planted 660,000 acres of trees , so where do we grow the food for a increasing population ???????

Misguided woodland expansion

at 17:32 on 08/12/2020 by Christopher Land

It was always my belief that if a proposal significantly altered a landscape/ habitat then an E.I.A. was required by law. It should be said however that this never happened in the Scottish Borders, where the all powerful FCS presumably decided it wasn't in their interests to conduct an E.I.A due to the costs of an inquiry. We as a country are failing in our obligations if we simply allow the quasi conservation movement to plant trees wherever they can.

Tree planting, carbon capture and re-afforestation

at 17:13 on 08/12/2020 by Archibald Grant

Yes, planting a tree every 20m along hedgerows might satisfy the target of 30,000has in year 1 but what about years 2,3,4 and 5 to 2025 - no can do. Yes, great for conservation but absolutely useless for timber production - isolated trees have strong branching habits which does not create useful timber products except firewood and more GHG emissions. So let's have some joined up thinking instead of knee jerk reactions. Some sacred cows might have to be sacrificed; I do not mean that every species-rich meadow has to be planted with trees but some may be; perhaps it would be better to have a look at the main reason why trees are not being planted in England which is the necessity to have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all areas/schemes over 2.5has. EIAs typically cost over £20,000 which makes most tree planting schemes in England totally uneconomic even with grant aid.

Hedgerow Trees

at 17:05 on 08/12/2020 by David Brown

Planting trees to offset CO2 emissions might be a driving force behind govt. plans, however there is little biodiversity value in planting trees every 20m. along hedgerows (what's left of them, as Simon Kibble points out); strips of woodland around the edge of something else amounting to say, four acres in total, has little value compared to four square acres. I do agree with Malcolm Hay that self seeding sitka spruce is a problem; it doesn't do well in Scotland, or anywhere in Britain really, and eradicates ground flora.

planting programme

at 16:28 on 08/12/2020 by hamish john lochore

While I applaud this planting of more trees I feel we ought to get things in prospective. No where have I read or seen any programme for commercial planting. It is all very well promoting "native species" but just what will they achieve apart from letting the public have more places to walk their dogs. It will enhance more bird life and insects which is to be applauded but it will not generate any form of income from timber except a very limited amount of fire wood. We need commercial timbers in this coun try and the rate it is being used up at present means we will be desperately short in years to come. Not all commercial timber blocks need to be unattractive or dead to any form of life like Sitka plantations. It is generally understood that most of out "native species" are suffering from one or more forms of decaese. At the same time we are talking of climate change. There is an interconnection; so why can we not open our eyes and look more constructively at what trees will grow and are not at present suffering from any ill. Two that spring to mind( but I agree will not grow everywhere) but should be looked at seriously are 1. Eucalyptus and 2. Notha Fagus. Both these are attractive trees and compete very favorably with and probably out strip Sitka in growth and volume. They are also lovely woods to walk in and have good flowers which in courage insect life ; bees especially

glastir woodland creation scheme

at 15:59 on 08/12/2020 by J C D Fenwick

recent rule changes to this scheme mean that only whole land parcels qualify. To plant ,say, 5 hectares of a 50 hectare block of land means the loss of entitlements on the whole 50 hectare block, not just the 5 hectares planted. So much for encouraging tree planting on farms.

Tree planting

at 13:52 on 08/12/2020 by Gabrielle Leese

I welcome any government action which will stem the destruction of our native wild life, even though I voted to 'remain'. European style agricultural grants are still destroying our local environment. Hedges, with intermittent trees here are the key and we are losing them. The saving grace is that the estate which surrounds our village also makes money from its regular partridge and pheasant shoots, and so some habitats are preserved, though the rich variety of water species have much enjoyed lock down. However, it is unlikely we shall hear our turtle doves next spring as their habitat is under the saw as I write. In the past few years thirty foot hedges have been cut down to knee-height (excuse: they are full of elm, but actually, they were mainly hawthorn and blackthorn and full of wintering birds). All unprotected hedgerow trees, such as sycamore, seem to have disappeared. The low hedgerows concerned are now silent, although a 'haven' for blackberries and nettles, which provide the excuse for the increased amount of new fencing (is it legal?) which has appeared to replace them. The bird-rich orchard and 30 foot 'scrub' at the centre of our village (on a hill) was removed at the same time, just before the arrival of the autumn flocks, and replaced with continuous hedge-less acres of arable reminiscent of the windswept area round Peterborough. We now hear it is the hardest part of the estate to grow arable crops: too dry. and open to all the winds. Hopefully the environmental grants may lead to a better habitat for birds, villagers and even the land-owners!

Increasing flash flood risk and reducing tree cover

at 11:36 on 08/12/2020 by Bruce Durham

Good article. Food security is under threat. Let not loose good farmland. We also need to consider the need for widespread and carefully tailored natural flood management as flash flood risk has increased 7 fold in the last 20 years (Met office) our very low tree cover in S Leics of 3% (Natural England) and 4% (YGIS) is reducing as ash dieback kills our most common tree. (Surrey woodland cover is 25%) Owners of 71,000 ha of woods report 25% increase in tree death in last 5 years due to disease, drought and fire (sylva.org.uk). LCC Space for wildlife shows S Leics as a low priority. What hope do we have in our tree scarce low priority flooding landscape. Thank heavens for Welland Rivers Trust. They are a breath of fresh air. www.harboroughwoodland.com

Planting trees

at 10:11 on 08/12/2020 by Simon Kibble

Having read the artricle i strongly agree that trees in hedgerows are a great idea. Sadly from what i see of the hedgerow network the majority are smashed to pieces with no great benefit as im aware not to mention especially as the work is done with hedges loaded with berries and therefore lost for native and visiting migratory field fare redwing and thrushes. I would also like to see the furthering of the work of the french scientist who identified the potential for soil to take up the carbon at rapid rate .It would appear that this was proposes for the whole world action plan but the americans didnt get on board. Soils need to be looked after and heres a great opportunity to better the soils and plannet too. Simply a down to earth approach . I

Tree planting in perspective

at 8:55 on 08/12/2020 by Malcolm Hay

Thank goodness you are on the case with this - the prospects in Scotland are even more horrible as the arm chair eco warriors size up heather moorland - thus killing two birds with one stone! We are seeing an increasing problem with self seeding sika on open moorland and peat - the prelude, I fear, to the next INNS epidemic - once again, self inflicted!

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