Woodlands

David A. Coomes, Euan Bowditch, Vanessa Burton, Bethany Chamberlin, Flora Donald, Martina Egedusevic, Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor, Janette Hall, Alan Jones, Emily Lines, Bonnie Waring, Emily Warner, Andrew Weatherall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Abstract

1. The United Kingdom’s forests currently store 1.09 billion tonnes of carbon and sequester about 4.6% of the country’s total emissions. The UK government’s commitment to plant over 30,000 extra hectares of woodland per year by 2025 offers significant opportunities to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, although the full benefits will not be felt before 2050. Depending on the choice of site, species and establishment method, these
new woodlands could also benefit biodiversity and deliver multiple ecosystem services.
2. Large-scale afforestation should avoid peatlands, productive agricultural lands and habitats of high conservation value, focussing instead on poor-quality grazing land of which there is more than enough to fulfil government planting commitments. However, this loss of grasslands would reduce the UK’s capacity to produce meat and dairy products (unless other regions were further intensified), which could do more harm than good unless we switch to more vegetable-based diets, if tropical forests were destroyed to create pastures which
supply the UK with imported meat.
3. Small-scale establishment of native woodlands within agricultural landscapes would provide opportunities to reconnect fragments of ancient woodland, protect wildlife, and better connect people with nature if made accessible. Natural establishment of woodlands should be encouraged, where appropriate.
4. Non-native conifer plantations provide timber and other wood products, reducing the UK’s international environmental footprint; conifer plantations can be damaging for nature, but careful planning can reduce that impact and even benefit some species. In order for plantations to meet their potential, adaptation of woodlands and forestry to future hazards is essential. This includes ensuring diversity is increased in plantations, pests and diseases are controlled, and creating complex canopy structure.
5. Selective harvesting of trees in native woodlands provides a source of fuelwood (i.e. a renewable energy that substitutes for fossil fuels) and other wood products. Some species thrive in selectively-logged woodlands, but felling large, old trees and clearing deadwood is harmful to birds, bats, lichens, invertebrates and fungi that are woodland specialists, so these should be avoided. They are also important carbon stores. The UK would require damaging levels of wood extraction to meet its energy demands through home-grown fuelwood.
6. Past grant schemes aiming to support woodland creation have rarely met annual planting targets due to social factors including bureaucracy, traditional perceptions of land management, and financial viability. Local, and regional participatory approaches are needed to negotiate around different objectives and build collective power for brokering public payments for nature-based solutions
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNature-based Solutions for Climate Change in the UK: A Report by the British Ecological Society
PublisherBritish Ecological Society
Chapter1
Pages24-37
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Society
  • Woodland
  • Nature-based solutions
  • UK
  • Trees
  • Forest

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