Defra backs call for increases in woodland

The status quo is "not an option" in harnessing trees for climate change mitigation and adaptation, according to latest research endorsed by Defra secretary Hilary Benn.

The study calls for increased woodland creation, backed up by targeted research into species suitable for predicted future climates as well as urban trees for shade, flood control and cooling.

Scientists led by the University of Sheffield's Sir David Read were tasked by the Forestry Commission to carry out the independent research. The report, Combating Climate Change: A Role for UK Forests, was due to be launched by the commission on Wednesday (25 November).

Key aspects of the report include the need for redesigned policy incentives to adequately reward the provision of non-market benefits of forests, especially those relating to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In addition, the scientists concluded that further scientific and socio-economic analysis is required to enable the UK to achieve the full adaptation and mitigation potential of trees and that clear, robust research will be needed.

Speaking to HW at the All-party Parliamentary Horticulture Group event on Monday (see p3), Benn said a critical step would be "matching up people who want to contribute to carbon reduction with tree planting". He added: "As part of a global climate agreement, we need forest credits to be included."

The essential role of trees was also explored at Treework Environmental Practice's Trees and Urban Climate Adaptation seminar on 19 November. Forestry Commission director general Tim Rollinson told HW he was optimistic that resources would be redirected into trees and woodlands.

"We know public finances will be under real strain and that means everyone has to reprioritise," he said. Rollinson was scheduled to speak at the report's launch, along with its authors and Forestry Commission chairman Lord Clark of Windermere.

The possible need to use alternative species in planting also needs to be considered, according to the scientists' assessment.

The report points out that further research is needed to establish which tree species are most suitable for specific requirements and the impact of pests and diseases must be considered.

"This is a really important time," added Rollinson. "We are now swimming in the mainstream and trees are very inexpensive compared to the benefits they deliver."

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