A recent UN report calculates that since 1990 forests equal to the size of South Africa have disappeared. Climate change, ranching, disease and logging, which are often illegal are all partly to blame while vast new plantations for palm oil and soya have also taken their toll.
Five years ago the Forestry Commission and Defra launched the Big Tree Plant project which is aimed at increasing the number of trees planted up to a million in UK’s towns and cities. In February 2017 the millionth tree was planted in Bristol.
The scheme’s success is almost entirely depended on the enthusiasm of local community groups. The Havant tree warden network, backed by Havant Council, is a perfect example. Since joining the scheme in 2012, the 40 or so members have added 4800 whips and young trees to the borough’s tree stock. This compares very favourably with London where 20,000 were planted over seven years
Trees in built-up areas particularly reduce pollution and increases the value of homes, they even make people feel healthier, so trees have real economic value. But the future for urban trees is far from rosy.
Risk-averse property insurers and hard up local authorities which can’t afford maintenance, and developers wanting to squeeze in more houses are bad news for trees, whether in towns or green field sites. As if this isn’t enough Ash Dieback disease is spread by spores from dead leaves, and unfortunately there is no remedy for this disease which is poised to sweep through the whole country destroying tens of thousands of ash trees
Older trees removed by developers are often replaced by dwarf species which are little more than decorative. Most local authorities employ tree officers who have powers to use the Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) that they can initiate or grant in response to a request.
The UK’s leading tree charity is The Tree Council and one of their roles is to coordinate the 8000 strong national network of tree wardens. These are volunteers who are actively involved in planting new trees, protecting new ones and who mobilise public opposition to unjustified felling. No qualifications are needed other than a love for trees and for protecting their welfare against needless destruction.
Details of how to join your local tree wardens can be found either on the Tree Council or Havant Borough Tree wardens respective websites.
The Tree Council
Havant Borough Tree Wardens