Let nature work its magic and create a million acres of new woodland in England - Friends of the Earth

Let nature work its magic and create a million acres of new woodland in England

Friends of the Earth and Rewilding Britain call on the government to unlock the country's full potential for natural regeneration

Over a million acres of new tree cover could be created in England simply by letting existing woodland regenerate and spread, new research shows.

The findings, commissioned by Friends of the Earth in partnership with Rewilding Britain, bolster calls that the UK government should pay greater attention to natural regeneration as a way to confront the nature and climate emergencies by increasing the country’s tree cover, alongside planting more trees.

Natural regeneration is the process by which trees self-seed through wind-blown seed dispersal or where animals like jays and squirrels bury nuts which then germinate. The benefit is that it naturally occurs, but is often disrupted by grazing livestock and deer eating the saplings.

New mapping, carried out by Tim Richards from TerraSullis on behalf of the two organisations, shows that allowing existing broadleaved woodlands in England to self-seed by 150 metres on all sides – excluding nature reserves, priority habitats, and productive farmland – would produce a million acres of new woodland. The analysis also identified the local authority areas with greatest potential for natural woodland regeneration, which include Cornwall, Harrogate and Northumberland.

England is one of Europe’s least wooded countries. Evidence from Friends of the Earth shows there is more than enough suitable land to double England’s tree cover, without affecting precious habitats such as peatlands or valuable farmland. Current rates of woodland creation in England remain at historically low levels , with just over 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) established this past year, mostly through planting.

Mike Childs, head of research at Friends of the Earth, said: “Doubling the UK’s tree cover should be a government priority, this is because the benefits are clear to see. It will help to restore nature and absorb climate-wrecking carbon emissions. By enabling woodlands to flourish, we can also reduce the UK’s dependence on timber imports in a further win for the planet. Natural regeneration puts us well on the way to that goal in England. By substantially increasing funding for farmers and other landowners so they can set aside suitable land for natural woodland regeneration, we can let nature work its magic.”

Posted on: 14 October 2021

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