We can do better says Woodland Trust

By Richard Harding   |   Kingsbridge and Ivybridge reporter   |
Saturday 23rd October 2021 5:00 am
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The South Hams is doing well but could always do better when it comes to planting new trees.

Devon has the most woodland cover in the south west at 19.18% against the national average of 13%

With trees one of the Government’s top priorities at COP 26, the UK risks failing to meet its carbon net zero ambitions unless more trees are planted, woodland restored and the condition of woods improved, warns the Woodland Trust.

The warning comes just weeks before international climate change conference and on the eve of the launch of its third nationwide campaign - the Big Climate Fightback - to get people planting more trees.

Nationwide the charity is sending more than 700,000 free native trees to schools and communities to kickstart an autumnal blitz on tree planting, with a further 680,000 trees available to apply for now to be planted next March.

In total, the Woodland Trust will be sending out nearly 1.4 million free trees* over the coming planting season to support the Big Climate Fightback, which is backed by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Dr Darren Moorcroft is chief executive of the Woodland Trust, which is bidding to establish 50 million new trees by 2025.

He said not enough trees have been planted in the past, but "things can change".

"With recent decades warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century and 2020 the third warmest on record, it is clear we are in a climate crisis, but we are in a nature crisis too," Dr Moorcroft said.

We remain one of the least wooded countries at 13 per cent woodland cover, compared to 37 per cent in the rest of Europe.

"Without greater action, small and fragmented woods will remain that way and species will face extinction. But it is not too late - things can change."

The Woodland Trust’s recent State of the UK’s Woods and Trees report highlighted some stark warnings on the health of the UK’s trees and woods. it found woodlands are already impacted by climate change - spring now arrives on average 8.4 days earlier than the first part of the 20th century, which can be catastrophic for nature.

Woodland species are in steep decline. Woodland specialist birds have declined by over 80% since 1970: including willow tit (declined 94% since 1970 - Britain’s fastest declining resident bird), lesser spotted woodpecker, lesser redpoll, spotted flycatcher, and capercaillie.

Tree disease and pests are causing local extinctions of wildlife species across the UK; 120 million ash trees alone to be lost to ash dieback meaning at least 106 ash-dependent species could see dramatic declines.

Only 7 per cent of UK woodlands are in good condition.

Nearly all UK woods exceed thresholds for nitrogen pollution which is wiping out lichens and other species leading to disruption and decline of ecosystems, causing micro-extinctions.

Only 2.5% of UK land area is ancient woodland, which is the UK’s richest wildlife habitat, with ecosystems having developed over centuries. Worryingly, at least 1,225 ancient woodlands are currently under threat from destruction by new built development.

Dr Moorcroft said: "Not only do we not have enough trees, what we have is still at risk and as a result nature has declined steeply. While action on biosecurity and woodland loss is largely outside the influence of the public, we can all play a role in increasing tree numbers to help nature recover and tackle the climate crisis."

The UK has created less than 300,000 hectares of new woodland in the last 20 years. Over the next 20 years, we need three times that amount - and 1.44 million hectares of new woodland by 2050. It’s an uphill task and the pace needs to pick up, but together it can be done.

With the international community about to gather for the climate conference in Glasgow (COP26) you can do your bit and join the Big Climate Fightback. The Trust has scores of free trees that community groups and schools can apply for now.

To learn more, go to woodlandtrust.org.uk/bigclimatefightback

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