Recent calls to plant millions more trees are missing a raft of opportunities to maximise impact on climate change, warns the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).
The charity fears planting millions of trees risks being a short-term indulgence if we don’t then commit to long term sustainable management. And it says this must start with recognising timber as a carbon store.
As it publishes its Forestry and Climate Change policy, RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd says: “Climate change is now a national priority and should rightly be at the core of governments’ forestry policies. Such a policy focus will drive real change while delivering multiple environmental benefits of trees, woods and forests. But to be truly successful, climate change policies for forestry must not overlook the enormous carbon capture potential in developing markets such as switching to more timber-based construction. Planting millions of trees risks being a short-term indulgence if we don’t then commit to long term sustainable management. For many land managers, the costs of planting and maintaining trees and woodland will generate income from timber and woodfuel in 50 or 100 years’ time to re-invest in more trees. We need to be developing markets geared to this growth in home grown production.”
The charity emphasises the need for a clearer policy focus which underlines the cumulative benefit of planting resilient species, maintaining newly created woodland and sustainably managing woodland that already exists.
Managing climate adapted woodland for the future, it says, will require greater flexibility in choice in tree species, including site-suitable productive timber species. With so much uncertainty, those choices will need to be supported by research-based evidence and decision support tools.
To reach the target to grow 50 million trees every year for the next 30 years, and to adapt existing woods to be more resilient to climate change requires considerable investment in people, training and knowledge sharing. There is already a skills shortage in forestry at all levels which is exacerbated by lack of teaching provision in schools and colleges which must be reversed.