Experts clash over trees’ role in fighting climate change

RHS advisor questions value of tree planting

By Rachel Sixsmith RHS head of horticultural advisory services Guy Barter has been criticised by parks consultant Alan Barber for not including planting more trees in his tips on climate change. Barter gave tips on how planting can be used to offset the effects of climate change to delegates at last week’s Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) conference in Bristol. He said planting trees was “not unequivocally accepted as a valid response to climate change” and warned that people’s expectations of what they want to see in parks and gardens will have to change. He said: “It may not be possible in the future to have lush green gardens full of rhododendrons. It’s probably not good to think about planting water-loving plants.” He added that plants with stronger root systems and advanced irrigation systems that help conserve water could help park managers cope with hotter summers and milder winters. Barber, a freelance consultant for CABE who specialises in urban parks and green spaces, questioned why planting more trees to ease the urban heat island effect was not mentioned. He said: “Why does this not figure in the thinking? What I cannot [understand] is why, in a country that is not short on water and not going to be in the foreseeable future, all we are hearing about is putting bricks in systems and cactuses in plant schemes.” Barter said trees would not ease the heat island effect as much in hotter temperatures. He explained: “The rain is going to evaporate that much faster so there’ll be less water available for the urban areas, which means trees will not be able to transpire.”

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