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Planting A Million Trees

By Sara Venn

Trees are amazing organisms and we all know that in the fight to rescue the planet from rising temperatures that they are a vital part of any campaign.

Not only do trees provide shade and help to cool areas but by photosynthesising they take in carbon dioxide and throw out oxygen, basically acting as air filters and becoming a weapon in the fight for rising temperatures.

The Woodland Trust have begun a campaign that is looking to plant a million trees in the run up to a special day of planting on 30thNovember. This a part of their Big Climate Fightback campaign, that is aiming to protect the planet. Over the next ten years they plan to plant 64 million trees, which is one for everyone in the UK, which will really support the growth of the tree canopy across the UK, supporting the fight to keep the temperature under a 1.5 degree rise and also support more cooling in urban and suburban areas. It’s a great campaign.

Hopefully lots of Incredible Edible groups will be involved in this project, planting a multitude of fruit and nut trees across the country. And obviously those trees will be well looked after when they have been planted, with correct staking, watering and mulching taking place. However there is some concern that whilst everyone is busy planting new trees that we are missing something important. Across the UK we have stunning trees in our cities, our suburbs and in rural areas in woods and forests and these trees need looking after and saving too.

All to often we hear of the loss of trees and hedgerows in the name of development, with it being regular practice to include fines for felling as a part of quotes from developers. We would like to call for every tree in the country to be treated as it should; as an important ecosystem in it’s own right both above and below the ground, supporting a multitude of invertebrates, small mammals and birds above ground and the flora and fauna of the soil below ground as well as a network of mycelium that links the tree underground and ensures the soil remains healthy for any new plantings. All too often we are told that felled trees will be replaced by new plantings, but this is simply not a good enough policy. A mature tree, supporting the local biodiversity and it’s own ecosystem, cannot be replaced by a sapling, which will take decades to reach maturity.

What is also shocking is that city street trees have an average age of 15 years, and whilst they are often planted as much larger specimens, the mere fact that they appear to be almost seen as disposable is horrifying. Our streets, especially those in cities and built up areas, need trees for cooling as well as to hold onto carbon and take up some of the pollution surrounding them, and trees are without a doubt the best piece of technology we have today to do that, and yet rarely is the right tree planted in the right place, or properly maintained. Often guards are left on for far too long causing damage to bark and stakes are left unloosened, meaning the tree fails to grow supporting roots that will keep it upright once the stake is removed. Whilst we understand that local authorities are struggling with austerity, with climate being the single most important cause of our age, there is no excuse for not looking after the things that will naturally help us.

Often trees are planted in large numbers, have plastic tree guards added and are left to fend for themselves. As we know, newly planted trees need care and attention, regular watering, keeping free of weeds and grasses and often running to ensure they become a decent shape. But in the knowledge that the whips planted are often cheaper than the tree guard, and that it’s cheaper to replace these whips than it is to water and maintain them in their first year, is it any surprise that so many, including 80% of the plantings undertaken by the HS2 rail project, fail dismally and just leave empty plastic tree guards across the country?

So our ask is that we all continue in our brave activism and request better for trees from local authorities and others who look after our nations trees. Lobby your councillors, speak with groups planting trees and possibly be ready with watering cans………….

And between us let’s support the planting of new trees and the growth of them all.