A weapon in tree funds battle

Back in 2008 when the UK's Urban Canopy Initiative was launched to highlight the consequences of urban deforestation, co-founder Jeremy Barrell noted that while trees' importance in the urban environment was now accepted, what was missing was a coordinated approach to reversing widespread losses.

Today, we can add to that lack of coordination the impact of two years of unprecedented public sector spending cuts that have seen tree officers' budgets placed under enormous pressure.

But not all. Torbay has seen its tree maintenance budget increase after several years of decline following its participation in the very first survey in the UK of the contribution of an urban forest using the US Forest Service-developed i-Tree Eco model.

The survey and its analysis, published by consultancy Treeconomics this week, shows that the service Torbay's trees provide in terms of pollution removal alone amounts to £1.3m a year - a benefit far in excess of the annual cost of managing them. But even more crucially, the study shows that the most effective strategy for increasing the contribution made by the tree canopy is to preserve and manage existing trees so that a good proportion grow to maturity.

As we all know - and as Torbay has recognised - the creation and preservation of the large, healthy, long-lived trees that provide the greatest benefits requires strong arboricultural maintenance plans backed by adequate funds and skilled professional staff.

The task now is to get that message across to other local authority budget holders across the UK. Torbay's Urban Forest could prove a powerful weapon.

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