New research analysing soil types in the UK can be used to determine where woodland expansion could be focused in the future as the UK plans for 2bn new trees
The analysis warns that planting the wrong type of tree in the wrong place could hinder the UK’s efforts to tackle carbon emissions
Native broadleaf trees offer the best return in locking up carbon and supporting the UK’s struggling woodland wildlife
New analysis from the RSPB reveals where new woodlands could be created to have the biggest impact on climate change and reducing carbon, whilst also being in harmony with nature. It warns that planting trees in the wrong areas could hinder the UK’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis and harm some wildlife.
In 2019, the UK Committee on Climate Change, advisors to governments across the UK, recommended that 2bn new trees and a 40 per cent increase in woodland would be needed to help the UK reach net zero by 2050. Combined with decarbonising the energy sector and changes in transport and other industries, more trees and woods will play a crucial role in how the UK reduces carbon emissions.
This scale of land use change presents both opportunities as well as real risks for nature. Today, the RSPB is releasing new research which maps where tree planting in the UK could make the biggest difference for nature and climate change.
Scientists at the RSPB compared soil types to assess the climate risks of woodland creation. Some soils are rich in carbon, and although new woodlands could be created on these, there is a danger that we could lose more carbon from the soil than new trees would absorb, at least over the first few decades. Woodland creation on mineral soils, with lower levels of carbon, pose a lower risk for the climate.
The new maps reveal that the UK holds enough lower-risk soil to meet the Climate Change Committee’s most ambitious woodland expansion targets. However, the study warns that if the woodland expansion extends into the higher-risk soils area then the governments of the UK must adopt a strategic approach if they are to avoid increasing carbon emissions.