This green and pleasant land is not as green as we might think.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) collects data on % of land by country that is forest.
At around 13% forest cover in 2015, the UK is one of the least densely forested countries in Europe. This compares with 38% for the EU, and 31% worldwide.
Yes, it does, because the entire woodland ecosystem plays a huge role in locking up carbon, including the living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and its associated vegetation.
A young wood with mixed native species can absorb 400+ tonnes of carbon per hectare in trees, roots, and soil.
The average UK citizen produces around 8 tonnes of carbon per year. So, a patch of woodland just 20m x 10m could “offset” the carbon the citizen produces. A football pitch of woodland could “offset” the carbon produced by 35 people.
We should all go and take advice on which trees are best and plant them wherever we can.
I like the 3-30-300 test. Does this work for you?
· Are 3 trees visible from every home?
· Is there 30% tree cover in every neighbourhood?
· Are you 300m from the nearest park or green space?
A good place to start is by measuring the current position, and then charting the change over time.
In 2011 our local Torbay Council was the first local authority in the UK to use a tree audit scheme (i-Tree) to map its tree assets. The survey consisted of 250 randomly selected plots throughout Torbay, and it was not just the trees that were surveyed, but the underlying ground e.g., hard, or soft surfacing, use of area (footpath, car park, field, woodland, etc.).
Leyland Cypress was the most common tree in Torbay. However, the most important tree was identified as the Ash. This has now become a very real concern for Torbay, with the anticipated loss of a significant amount of its Ash trees through Ash Dieback.
Here are some findings from the survey:
Number of trees – 818,000
Tree cover – 11.8%
Most common species – Leyland cypress, Ash and Sycamore
Pollution removal – 50 tonnes per year
Carbon Storage – 98,100 metric tonnes
Carbon sequestration – 3320 metric tonnes per year
The second survey is now underway, and it will be fascinating to see the changes.
The UK despite having the perfect climate to grow trees (and some great native species) is clearly one of the least forested countries in the world.
We need regulations (and maybe incentives) to plant more trees. We need to educate and inspire the public to support and encourage the planting of diverse and appropriate woodland. This is not limited to public spaces and National Parks; it needs to start in all our neighbourhoods including our towns and cities.
How many trees are you going to plant this year?
Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country and the planet!