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Re-Wilding Britain's Forests
Only 13% of Britain is covered in Forest
Planting trees isn't the complete answer to global warming
Forests like the New Forest have many unique Flora and Fauna
Coniferous Trees will still need to be planted for sustainability
Allowing trees and woodland to regenerate through the natural dispersal of seeds should become the default way to restore Britain’s forest cover, according to a new report.
Natural regeneration brings the most benefits for biodiversity, is cost-effective and may sequester more carbon than previously thought, argues Rewilding Britain.
“Given sufficient seed sources and suitable site conditions, trees will plant themselves in their millions for free over as large an area of land as we are willing to spare,” said the charity in a new report seeking to galvanise support for natural solutions to help meet the government’s ambitious target to increase Britain’s forest cover by 30,000 hectares annually by 2025.
Only 13,460 hectares of woodland were planted in Britain in the year to March 2020, mostly in Scotland, but the government’s targets should see forest cover rise by at least 2% from its current 13%. The European Union average is 40%.
Rewilding Britain, alongside other charities including Friends of the Earth, are campaigning to double Britain’s forest cover to 26%.
The government this month announced a plethora of tree-planting schemes in England to help meet its 30,000-hectare target – an area the size of Milton Keynes every year – which was last achieved in 1989.
The Green Recovery Challenge Fund last week allocated almost £40m to 68 projects to plant more than 800,000 trees, including 10,000 trees at 50 NHS sites and 12 “tiny forests” the size of a tennis court in urban areas – the brainchild of the Conservation Education & Research Trust.
Separately, the government announced £12.1m government investment in plans for 500 hectares of trees to be planted in 10 community forests including the Mersey Forest and White Rose Forest in Leeds.
The government also pledged £4m to fund innovative tree-planting in towns and cities and near rivers to reduce flood risk. The fund includes plans for 30,168 new trees in the Upper Thames and Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 10,257 trees to be planted in the Ure and Wharfe catchments in Yorkshire to improve wildlife habitat and connectivity.
While there are also generous woodland creation grants available to private landowners to plant trees including commercial timber crops, natural regeneration is not supported by any targeted funds.
In its report, Rewilding Britain calls for natural regeneration to be explicitly incentivised by the future Environmental Land Management Scheme as part of a more coordinated approach to forestry, farming and rewilding.
It says that natural regeneration should be made the default approach to woodland creation unless trees are unable to establish or would take too long to arrive because seed sources are too distant or areas are too overgrazed. If this is the case, forest creators could kickstart natural processes by scarifying the ground, scattering seed or controlling grazing. Only after this should planting locally-sourced saplings be considered, particularly if it positively engages local communities.
Rebecca Wrigley, chief executive of Rewilding Britain, said: “People have this mindset that woodland expansion means planting trees and that’s across the conservation sector as well.
“Nature is pretty good at doing this itself. Natural regeneration brings multiple potential benefits – you get the right tree in the right place, you don’t get the potential carbon emissions you get with planting on peaty soils and you boost the complexity of the ecosystem, which builds resilience. Natural regeneration also helps species to shift and adapt to climate change. There’s growing evidence that it can sequester more carbon although there isn’t a broad research base yet because natural regeneration is just not on people’s radars.”
Britain is the second largest net importer of forest products after China but the current tree-planting push is driven by the commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s expert advisers on climate, has recommended that 1.5bn trees be planted by 2050 to sequester carbon.
One study of natural regeneration in Britain calculated that the carbon absorption of naturally regenerating forest began at 0.6 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year, rising to 4.1 tonnes per hectare per year in maturity.
Speaking to a tree summit organised by Friends of the Earth, Lord Goldsmith, the forestry minister, quoted research suggesting that nature-based solutions such as trees and soils could provide a third of the emissions reductions required under the Paris agreement to limit global heating to 2C but currently only received 3% of global climate finance.
Wrigley welcomed Goldsmith’s support for natural climate solutions including regeneration “but it’s just translating that into an integrated approach to land use where we look at this as a whole and consider farming, forestry and rewilding”.
Article taken from the Guardian Newspaper 24th December 2020 Author Patrick Barkham
Young Oak trees on a private Estate in Hampshire
On Thursday 11 June, the Forestry Commission published the latest government tree planting statistics.
Analysis of the statistics has been covered by national media today in The Times, The I and The Sun, as well as regionally in The Yorkshire Post. Coverage notes that tree planting in England increased last year but was below the rate needed to reach the manifesto commitment to plant 30,000 hectares of trees across the UK by 2025. The articles also reference calls by campaigners for government to ramp up tree planting efforts to meet targets to help absorb carbon emissions.
Overall, tree planting rates in England have increased since last year.
The statistics show that the area of new planting of woodland in England, including both Government and non-Government support, has increased by 54% since last year. Total new planting amounted to 2,330 hectares in 2019-20 from 1,420 hectares in 2018-19.
The total area of trees newly planted with all 10 forms of central government support in England has gone up by 64% since the previous year, also showing a clear upward trend. Under this support, there was 1,956 hectares of new planting in 2019-20, up from 1,273 hectares in 2018-19. This brings the total number planted with government support to 4,273 hectares over the last 3 financial years.
Further, provisional official woodland statistics from Forest Research show 13,460 hectares of new planting across the UK in the year to March 2020.
Commenting on the statistics, a Defra spokesperson said:
“Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025 – working closely with devolved administrations, communities and landowners to make this happen.
“We are proud of our record on woodland creation but we know there is still more we can do.
“We have recently announced a £640m Nature for Climate Fund to support increased tree planting and we will shortly be consulting on an England Tree Strategy, outlining potential policies to expand and improve our woodlands.”
Forestry is a devolved matter. We will be working with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to agree how our combined efforts can meet our UK-wide tree-planting target and Net Zero emissions by 2050.
There has been coverage in the Times and the Independent of the latest Forestry Commission data showing that tree planting with government support in England has fallen this year, with around 1.3 million trees being planted, down from 1.8 million in the same period last year.
The most recent statistics on all new planting of woodland in England however show that the 2,330 hectares of new planting of woodland in England in 2019-20 was the largest such amount in the last 5 years.
We recognise the long-term nature of forestry, woodland planting and management, and will continue to listen to the sector and make further changes to improve our existing schemes where we can, and as we design new schemes in the future.
The government is committed to accelerating tree planting and improving the management of our existing trees and woodlands, and has recently consulted on a new England Tree Strategy.
A government spokesperson said:
Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.
We have already consulted on our England Tree Strategy and announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund — which will be vital tools in ensuring we work closely with communities and landowners to accelerate tree planting and meet this ambitious target.
Last week we announced the final results of our Urban Tree Challenge Fund, confirming there will be a combined total of up to 134,000 new trees planted across England’s towns and cities. This received positive coverage including in Horticulture Week, Agriland, Forestry Journal, Darlington and Stockton Times, Northern Echo and Cornwall Live.
Announcing the results of the Urban Tree Challenge, Sir William Worsley, Chair of the Forestry
Community tree planting is a passion of mine which is why I am so excited to see projects like these benefitting from our Urban Tree Challenge Fund.
Trees give life to our streets and our parks, help improve the health of communities, and provide homes for precious wildlife, and the thousands of new trees that will be planted will bring many benefits for generations to come.
Also welcoming the results, Forestry Minister, Lord Goldsmith, said:
Trees play a crucial role in the fight against the climate and biodiversity loss. In urban areas they can link up our valuable green spaces and connect local communities with nature – something which has never been so important.
Ahead of our forthcoming England Tree Strategy, and to complement our manifesto ambition to have every new street lined with trees, the success of the Urban Tree Challenge Fund provides a fantastic example of how trees can be planted, managed and enjoyed, wherever you live.
The Prime Minister recently announced £40 million additional investment into the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund as part of the government’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution – this will go towards creating and retaining thousands of jobs in areas including tree planting, horticulture, and equipment and seed supply.
The government today (Monday 4 November) launched a £50 million scheme to help boost tree-planting rates in the fight against climate change.
The new Woodland Carbon Guarantee will encourage farmers and landowners to plant more trees and create new woodland in return for payments as those trees grow.
It gives land managers in England the long-term financial income they need to invest in carbon sequestration - the process by which trees lock up and store carbon from the atmosphere.
Successful participants will be offered the option to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government over 35 years at a guaranteed price set by auction, providing new income for land managers who help businesses compensate for their carbon emissions.
Forestry and Climate Adaptation Minister Zac Goldsmith said:
Woodland creation is an excellent way to help combat the effects of climate change.
By supporting farmers and land managers who decide to invest in tree-planting, we are making sure we tackle climate change through nature-based solutions and – as part of our 25 Year Environment Plan - help leave the environment in a better state than we found it.
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee means that now - more than ever - there is no reason to delay planting trees.
Trees are a precious natural asset and, as a natural carbon sink, are a vital part of the fight against climate change. Woodlands and forests will play an important role in the UK’s efforts to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is why the government is committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022. Funding for this scheme was announced by HM Treasury in the 2018 Autumn Budget.
By planting more trees and creating new woodland, land managers also provide a range of other ecosystem benefits such as preventing flood risk, soil conservation and boosting biodiversity.
Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission, said:
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee is an innovative new financial incentive for the mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions. By underpinning the carbon price I hope it will give confidence to landowners and investors, and encourage the planting of the right kind of trees at a viable scale. I am delighted that the Forestry Commission has been able to work with Defra to launch the scheme.
Creating more woodland is vital in the fight against climate change, and the Guarantee provides land managers with long-term certainty of a guaranteed payment rate for carbon, which their trees lock up and store.
I urge all land managers and owners thinking about planting to look at the scheme and apply for the Woodland Carbon Guarantee ahead of the first auction which will be held early next year.
Government-appointed Tree Champion Sir William Worsley said:
Land managers across the country can support me in my role as Tree Champion by tapping into the environmental and economic benefits of planting more trees.
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee provides an exciting opportunity for land managers to be rewarded for enhancing the environment on a sustained long-term basis.
The role trees play in combating climate change cannot be underestimated and by applying to the Guarantee you will also play a crucial role in helping with the UK’s efforts to hit Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To apply for the Woodland Carbon Guarantee, land managers need to register their projects with the Woodland Carbon Code - the voluntary standard for UK woodland creation projects where claims are made about the carbon dioxide they sequester.
Notes to editors:
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee will offer successful participants a guarantee that the government will buy Woodland Carbon Units at an agreed price.
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee is a long-term contract and recipients won’t receive immediate payments. Instead, land managers will receive a guaranteed income for delivered carbon units at agreed dates over 35 years if they wish to sell carbon units to the government.
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee can be used alongside other grants and funds available to plant new woodland as long as Additionality rules under the Woodland Carbon Code are met.
The Woodland Carbon Code is the voluntary standard for UK woodland creation projects which provides investor confidence in the claims are made about the carbon dioxide they sequester. Independent validation and verification to this standard provides assurance and clarity about the carbon savings of these sustainably managed woodlands. Businesses can buy Woodland Carbon Units to help compensate for their carbon emissions.
The scheme applies to land in England.
Forestry Commission Chief Executive Ian Gambles explains more about the Guarantee and why land managers should apply now: