Woodlands

David Coomes, Euan Bowditch, Vanessa Burton, Bethany Chamberlain, Flora Donald, Martina Egedusevic, E Fuentes-Montemayor, Jeanette Hall, Alan G. Jones, Emily Lines, Bonnie Waring, Emily Warner, Andrew Weatherall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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Abstract

KEY POINTS
1. The United Kingdom’s forests currently store 1.09 billion tonnes of carbon and sequesterabout 4.6% of the country’s total emissions. The UK government’s commitment to plantover 30,000 extra hectares of woodland per year by 2025 offers significant opportunities tomitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, although the full benefits will not befelt before 2050. Depending on the choice of site, species and establishment method, thesenew woodlands could also benefit biodiversity and deliver multiple ecosystem services.
2. Large-scale afforestation should avoid peatlands, productive agricultural lands and habitatsof high conservation value, focussing instead on poor-quality grazing land of which thereis more than enough to fulfil government planting commitments. However, this loss ofgrasslands would reduce the UK’s capacity to produce meat and dairy products (unless otherregions were further intensified), which could do more harm than good unless we switchto more vegetable-based diets, if tropical forests were destroyed to create pastures whichsupply the UK with imported meat.
3. Small-scale establishment of native woodlands within agricultural landscapes would provideopportunities to reconnect fragments of ancient woodland, protect wildlife, and betterconnect people with nature if made accessible. Natural establishment of woodlands shouldbe encouraged, where appropriate.
4. Non-native conifer plantations provide timber and other wood products, reducing the UK’sinternational environmental footprint; conifer plantations can be damaging for nature,but careful planning can reduce that impact and even benefit some species. In order forplantations to meet their potential, adaptation of woodlands and forestry to future hazards isessential. This includes ensuring diversity is increased in plantations, pests and diseases arecontrolled, and creating complex canopy structure.
5. Selective harvesting of trees in native woodlands provides a source of fuelwood (i.e. arenewable energy that substitutes for fossil fuels) and other wood products. Some speciesthrive in selectively-logged woodlands, but felling large, old trees and clearing deadwoodis harmful to birds, bats, lichens, invertebrates and fungi that are woodland specialists,so these should be avoided. They are also important carbon stores. The UK would requiredamaging levels of wood extraction to meet its energy demands through home-grownfuelwood.
6. Past grant schemes aiming to support woodland creation have rarely met annual plantingtargets due to social factors including bureaucracy, traditional perceptions of landmanagement, and financial viability. Local, and regional participatory approaches are neededto negotiate around different objectives and build collective power for brokering publicpayments for nature-based solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNature-based Solutions for Climate Change in the UK
Subtitle of host publicationA Report by the British Ecological Society
EditorsR. Stafford, B. Chamberlain, L. Clavey, P.K. Gillingham, S. McKain, M.D. Morecroft, C. Morrison-Bell, O. Watts
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
PublisherBritish Ecological Society
Chapter1
Pages24-37
Publication statusPrint publication - 2021

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