If Trees are the Lungs of the Earth – Is Our Planet Out of Breath?
We recently spoke to the Woodland Trust to remind ourselves about the importance of trees (often described as the Earth’s lungs) and their pivotal role in helping to handle our country’s (and indeed our planet’s) growing Carbon output, while providing habitats for animals and insects.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK, with over 500,000 supporters. It cares for over 1,000 sites, covering over 22,500 hectares.
What are the Trust’s aims?
“The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.”
What is the current situation in the UK?
“Provisional figures released by the Forestry Commission show that the amount of new woodland created rose to 13,000 hectares from 9,000 the previous year across the UK. However, in England just 1,420 hectares of woodland was created against the Government’s target of 5,000 per year.
The percentage of woodland cover in the UK remains at 13% (10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland).
The Government has committed to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. The Climate Change report called for an increase in UK woodland cover to 17% by 2050. This would require a planting rate of 30,000 hectares a year until 2050.”
Why do we need trees?
“Capturing and storing carbon in the atmosphere is vital in the fight against climate change. Trees lock up carbon and create havens of green space for wildlife and people. The average UK individual is directly responsible for nine tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. 25 square metres of woodland is enough to store almost 1 tonne of carbon.”
Which tree is most commonly found in the UK?
“English oak is arguably the best known and loved of British native trees and the most common tree species in the UK. They also support more life than any other native tree.”
What are the threats and challenges?
“An increase in pests and diseases. Chalara ash dieback alone could claim millions of the UK’s Ash trees, while Oak trees are suffering from acute Oak decline. And of course, humans. More than 1,000 irreplaceable ancient woods have been threatened by development over the last 10 years. And there are weak levels of legislative protection for our most precious woods.”
What is the free tree scheme?
“Since 2010, 5.8 million free trees have been sent by the Woodland Trust to schools and community groups. Those who can apply include schools across the UK, nurseries, colleges, universities and outdoor learning centres And groups such as resident associations, sports clubs, parish councils, scouts, guides and many more. More information is available at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/free-trees.
The scheme is funded by Sainsbury’s, the People’s Postcode Lottery, Yorkshire Tea, Selfridges & Co and DEFRA.”
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