Rewilding is Better than Tree Planting

Britain is one of Europe’s least wooded countries. Rewilding Britain says the UK government’s draft England Tree Strategy, is inadequate for tackling the climate and nature crises. The government’s draft strategy for reforestation in England at best would raise English woodland cover from 10 percent today to just 12 percent by 2050. A better solution is doubling of the country’s woodland cover over the next decade, from 13 percent now to at least 26 percent. This could help absorb 10 percent of current UK greenhouse emissions annually, and help declining wildlife.

Natural regeneration of trees is the way forward for expanding Britain’s woodland, according to research by Rewilding Britain. They have said natural regeneration of woodlands should be part of broader rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature by letting it take care of itself. This includes better protection for ancient woodlands, and ensuring a diverse mix of better-connected habitats. Allowing trees to naturally establish over huge areas could massively expand Britain’s woodlands more effectively and at a fraction of the cost of tree planting, according to research. Letting trees and shrubs naturally regrow over much of their former landscapes – with a helping hand where needed, such as preparing the ground when necessary or sowing tree seeds when naturally available seed sources are too far away – would create woodlands better able than plantations to soak up carbon dioxide, support wildlife, and adapt to a changing climate. Costs and management, imported tree diseases, and plastic tree guards would all be reduced.

Major barriers to natural regeneration are attitudes towards scrub – a superb habitat and nursery for young trees, but often seen as a waste of space or untidy – and over-grazing of trees by herbivores. Ancient woodlands are absent because we’ve destroyed them and prevent their return through over-cutting, over-mowing and over-grazing. If we let them, millions of trees would plant themselves across most of Britain.

We can’t replace our lost woodlands by planting alone. Protecting ancient woodland fragments, and allowing and assisting trees to naturally regenerate on a big scale, is the most effective way of reversing the sorry fortunes of our crippled forests and woodlands, and so benefiting people, nature and the climate.

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Woodland cover….

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Tree guards “Soft plastic tree guards” by dbcarr50 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 Wistmans woods “Wistman’s Wood” by Βethan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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