Sunday 5 May 2019

More Trees, Please?

Ten years ago, this story appeared. This week it reappeared, bigger and bolder than ever: the plan now is to plant no fewer than three billion trees in this country, to counter 'climate change'. A man from the Forestry Commission was talking enthusiastically about it on the radio this morning, though he made it clear that a rich mixture of trees must be planted, rather than great blocks of single species or types (as was Forestry Commission practice for far too long). This is true, of course, as single species densely planted are especially vulnerable to pathogens. But there are other problems with the plan too – one being the sheer numbers involved. Three billion – really? That's in addition to the four billion we already have. You only have to look out of an aeroplane window to realise that this is a pretty well wooded country, and that much of the tree cover consists of dense, unmanaged or under-managed woodland with few or no clearings. This is bad for the trees and worse for biodiversity (flowers, undergrowth, insects, small mammals, etc.) If the great tree planting initiative only produces more of this, it won't be much of a gain – and to achieve the kind of numbers they're aiming at would involve taking land out of more productive and beneficial use.
  Planting three billion trees is one thing; managing them long-term is quite another, and much more challenging. And then there is the problem of sourcing all those trees: unless they can be produced from native stock and grown on here, the risk of importing yet more plant pathogens will be greatly increased. The tree-planting mania of recent years has led to much importing to meet demand – and to the insane situation where we send native trees abroad to be grown on, and they come back with added foreign-origin pathogens (Ash Dieback is a prime example, but only one among several novel pathogens imported in recent years). All this needs to be carefully considered before we rush into any tree-planting programme on such a vast scale. I suspect that this project is yet another example of environment-related supererogation. I also suspect that it is wildly over-optimistic and the targets will never be achieved. Which might be no bad thing.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sir Ness, you are too right. That's a lot of trees, although folk tell me we are losing 'em all over the planet so maybe a few extra over here will help good old Mother Nature. And I sure like the idea of more hedges. I've been out in your fields with lady friends and you just can't get any privacy now cos they've dug up too many of those natty little barriers to voyeurs which we don't have back in the Old Country. Love in the countryside as nature intended and without being spied on is a human right, sir. But I don't like the electric cars coming down the line at us. I don't know about your electric account, sir, but mine is big enough already without having to pay extra just to go shopping in the Chevvy. But hell, I think my old auto is so beat up they're never going to get an electric motor in there. Let 'em try! Glad that in this England of eccentrics there we still got the voices of Common Sense such as your self!