Plant trees around cities, not in upland areas, Government-commissioned report urges

Traditional state support for forestry does not maximise wider returns to society nearly as well as planting trees around population centres, according to a new report from a panel of environmental experts.

Image: UK NEA
Image: UK NEA

The Government-commissioned UK National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-on compared three policy scenarios over the next 50 years: business-as-usual; maximal planting for minimal financial support; and targeting support to maximise "social value" of woodlands, including recreational and environmental gains.

This found that while the second option cost only a third as much, the net benefit to society was negative. But the third option brought benefits valued at more than twice the amount invested.

One of the report's authors, Professor Ian Bateman of the University of East Anglia, said: "Perfect positioning of new trees could create net benefits exceeding £500 million each year to society. But choosing the wrong areas, particularly to maximise market return, could incur a net loss to the taxpayer of up to £65 million."

The report, available to download here, is published by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment Secretariat, based at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge.

It is funded by Defra, the Welsh Government, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

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