The Guardian has an editorial this week praising the planting of trees, inspired by a scientific study for the Forestry Commission, calling for the mass planting of trees as a reliable and cheap way of soaking up carbon dioxide.
If Britain planted 23,200 hectares of woodland a year for the next 40 years, this country’s forests could soak up 10% of predicted emissions. That might sound like a lot of trees, but even at this rate woodland would cover only 16% of the land, far below the European average. The way this is done matters: no one wants to see a repeat of the endless dark lines of Sitka spruce which harmed the spirit of Ennerdale, in the Lake District, or drained the life from the peat soil of the Flow Country in Caithness. Read
The charity Trees for Life have undertaken a project to restore native woodland on their Scottish Dundreggan Estate in Inverness-shire. The birch/juniper wood is being smothered by impenetrable, towering bracken, severely reducing biodiversity and very difficult to control as its fronds are toxic for most animals. Here’s where the wild boar step in: by digging up and eating the roots they can halt the bracken’s relentless spread. They will also be creating seed-beds for a variety of species by ploughing up the soil. Although boar were originally part of Britain’s ecosystem, before being hunted to extinction in the 13th century, this is not a reintroduction programme and they will be controlled within a 30-acre site enclosed by a special boar-proof fence. BBC
Some quarters, particularly the forestry sector, are reacting with indignation and protest. In these times of climate change, it is argued, surely woodlands should be preserved, not eliminated. But what the RSPB are doing in Farnham, Surrey, by felling the conifer plantations, is restoring heathland, an increasingly rare habitat in Britain. What’s more, they are lobbying the government to clear more non-native conifers, a move that would favour biodiversity and species such as the nightjar, woodlark, sand lizard and adder, which thrive in more open shrubby areas.
As project manager Mike Coates succinctly puts it, “It should be the right tree in the right place. A field of barley is a field of grass, but it’s not a meadow; it’s a crop. In the same way, these are areas of land dominated by trees, but they are not woods, they are crops.” Photograph: Graham Turner Guardian
A walk through a British wood may be delightful, but according to a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, woodlands are becoming more similar, leading to an overall homogenization of the landscape. They are, in a word, becoming duller. Continue reading The impoverishment of British woods