Trees are the lungs of our planet. Our old-growth forests are not only beautiful places to visit but also they act as carbon sinks, absorbing atmospheric carbon and locking it up for centuries. This is why we need to care for our ancient forests and also why we must plant trees now to establish forests for the future. However, the woodland cover in the UK is insufficient to meet the 2050 carbon net zero goal. The Woodland Trust estimate we need to increase the UK’s woodland cover from a low of 13% to at least 19%. That is about 1.5 million hectares which is the same land area as Yorkshire.
So our plantsmen have a challenge on their hands. Talking to mYcard’s planting partner in Cornwall, Plant One, it soon became apparent that climate change is already providing its own challenges to the planting work. Rai Lewis explained: “Usually November is the start of the planting season, however this Autumn has been so warm that our saplings did not go into dormancy. So we have had to delay our planting until December.”
Plant One specialises in reforesting Cornwall, were they have three sites – each with their own characteristics. At Stithians they’re establishing an Atlantic Oakwood copse; at Farm Common, they’re establishing a typical wet woodland site; and at Flushing, Plant One are helping to extend a pre-existing old woodland. Each site is carefully surveyed prior to any planting and the most suitable native Cornish trees are selected for planting depending on the habitat – species like Oak, Downy Birch, Alder and Wild Cherry.
Among planters, there is a school of thought that natural regeneration is preferable to organised planting. However, although regeneration is good for conservation it is too slow to meet the urgent tree growth required to reduce the impact of climate challenge and the biodiversity crisis. Rai explained that ex-arable is their preferred site because this is a destroyed habitat and so any planting is a good thing. Plant One always look to improve, not compete with Nature, with their planting schemes.
Plant One also have an eye on the future and are now seeking advice as to how best to plant forests that will serve our planet for the best. Shockingly this means that they will most likely start to include 5 – 10 % non-native, Mediterranean trees in their schemes in the very near future. That way, when our native Cornish trees die because of climate change, our generation will have provided forests for the future.
The UK Government pledged in 2019 to tree plant more than 30,000 hectares by 2024 in a bid to reach net zero by 2050. By the end of 2021 they had only hit 14% of their tree planting target.
This is why it is really important that we work together through the mYcard investment in planting schemes to reach our planting goal.