At The Stove Yard, you’d expect us to love our wood, but it has to be said that we love our living trees and woodlands even more, for apart from being great at absorbing harmful greenhouse gas where else would we eventually get the wood we fire up our stoves with? We were therefore keen to read the Woodland Trust's first ever report of its kind on the state of our woods and trees which has just been published. It’s depressing.
Did you know that at just under 12% the UK has one of the least woodland coverage of any European country? Even Spain (which has proper deserts) has three times more woodland coverage as a percentage of land mass than us. According to the Woodland Trust report, our woods and trees are actually increasing but sadly this is largely with non-native tree varieties which are specifically being planted for harvesting. In contrast our existing native woodlands are in poor ecological condition and with this there has been a significant decline in wildlife. Whatever way you look at it our trees are facing tremendous pressure.
Threats range from small pockets of trees being simply cut down for development and not being replaced. For example, near where I live a marvellous hedgerow with about ten fully mature oak trees in it was removed (unnecessarily in my view) to build new houses and guess what they called the development – The Oaks. I’m sure that you can also think of many other mindless example. As if that wasn’t enough our remaining native trees and woodlands are also having to cope with a whole barrage of threats including:
• Climate change – eg spring is now nearly 8.4 days earlier each year with all of the implications this has
• Imported diseases – eg just one, Ash Dieback will eventually kill around 80% of our native Ash trees
• Invasive plants – eg fast-spreading 2.5m high Himalayan Balsam significantly reduces woodland biodiversity
• Air pollutants – eg damages leaves and prevents successful photosynthesis as well as alters soil chemistry
The Woodland Trust’s conclusion is that not nearly enough is being done to protect what we’ve got – let alone to create more vital native woodland. Trees lock-up carbon which helps us to fight climate change, they reduce air pollution and also help us to avoid flooding. It has been scientifically proven that our woodlands are vital for a happy and healthy society. The Woodland Trust have included a priority action plan that starts with planting more native trees, but even if the powers that be listen this will take time. However, this is something that most of us can do – even if it’s only just planting one tree. So don’t just hug a tree, plant one too. Future generations will thank you.
To read the complete Woodland Trust report please click here