Why we’re supporting the Woodland Trust’s tree planting campaign with Chris Packham
Photo credit: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
In a world increasingly facing the reality of global warming and increased carbon emissions, there is perhaps one simple solution that exists: planting trees.
A recent Channel Five documentary called Chris Packham: Plant a tree to save the world has highlighted just that. At the very start of the show, renowned wildlife presenter Chris Packham, known for his work on Springwatch and The Really Wild Show amongst others, outlines the seriousness of the problem.
‘This is not a drill. It’s a real emergency. Our climate is changing rapidly,’ says Packham at the very top of the programme. It’s an alarming start but one that really does drive home the issue we face. However, he continues, ‘There is something that can be part of the solution. Something that is freely available, cheap and makes us all happy. It’s trees.’
We need to start planting trees quickly, before it’s too late. The aim of the show, in conjunction with the Woodland Trust and using a host of famous faces such as Judy Dench and John Humphries, is to raise enough money to plant 100,000 trees across the UK.
There are many reasons why trees are one of the most important weapons we have in the fight against climate change. Trees soak up carbon and reduce pollution. They help to prevent flooding and provide valuable habitats for wildlife. As if that wasn’t enough, they also make our landscape beautiful. And, with a donation of as little as £1.50 being enough to plant a tree, there is something we can all do to help.
The Woodland Trust’s Carol Honeybun-Kelly explained on the show that your donation would see trees being planted across the British Isles, from Shetland to the Channel Islands and everywhere in between. She also added that The Woodland Trust as well as a number of other organisations, such as the Scouts, will be taking part.
The trees we plant now could be with us for centuries to come. The Woodland Trust has pledged to work with the community groups taking part to ensure all donations are spent on buying, planting and maintaining trees in the future.
Photo credit: The Sunday Times.
John Humphries in the Heartwood Forest
In a feature about the Heartwood Forest, journalist John Humphries outlines how important trees are to our way of life. Ten years ago, the forest was increased in size by over 600,000 trees, planted with the help of volunteers.
The idea was to grow the size of the existing woodland, providing habitats for wildlife. And it appears to be working. Since the beginning of the project, the number of butterflies and birds in the area has more than doubled.
The segment also features the benefits trees have beneath our feet. Ancient woodland has huge positives for the soil beneath, which remains unploughed and unsprayed. This creates a symbiotic relationship with the trees that grow in it, with the trees even communicating with each other through the soil – helping each other to grow.
Humphries then travelled near to Dover to visit an oak tree known as Her Majesty, believed to be between 600 and 700 years old.
Chris Packham also visits an old beauty – a 600-year-old beech tree. It’s astonishing to think that there’s something still living that dates back to the time of the English Civil War. Who knows, some of the trees planted as part of this campaign might also live to see what the world is like in another 600 years’ time.
However, in the UK we continue to cut trees down in order to make way for roads, houses and other buildings. If we’re not careful, there’s a danger of slipping into a state of deforestation – where we cut down more trees than we plant. Our country is already one of the least forested in Europe.
Clare Nasir on deforestation
Forests are being cleared or burned at an alarming rate to make way for sprawling cities or agricultural land. Meteorologist Clare Nasir reports on the effects of deforestation around the world and how we can still prevent this disaster from happening in the UK.
Experts believe the UK was once 90% covered by forest but centuries of development and extensive felling during the First World War meant it dropped to as low as 5%. Today it has gone up slightly to 13%, but we could still be doing much better. France has over three times that, at 41%, and Sweden leads the way in Europe with an impressive 68%, so it’s clear the UK is not doing enough.
Ancient forests that used to cover much of the country now account for only 2% of the UK’s surface area. The ecosystems of ancient woodlands are the most diverse we have in the UK, with complex networks of flora, fungi and fauna all living in perfect balance. Cutting down these areas puts this balance at risk. These places are essentially our own rainforest, and in the last 90 years, nearly half of our ancient woodlands have been lost.
We need to stop cutting down woodland sites and increase the numbers of trees we plant in these areas. These are irreplaceable woodlands and we must do everything we can to protect them. Planting new trees in these places highlights the need to protect our past, as well as building a better world for our future.
CEO of the Woodland Trust, Darren Moorcroft, said during the show that trees ‘are the lungs of the earth’. He added that in order for the UK to meet its environmental targets by 2050 (as set by the current government) we need 1.5 billion trees to be growing. That means we need to start right now.
If you’re looking into planting your own trees you need to think about the space. Some species, such as beech and oaks can grow up to 40 metres high, so it’s best not to plant them too close to buildings.
Suitable trees for growing in small spaces include the rowan tree, or mountain ash, wild cherries and crab apples – the UK’s oldest native fruit tree.
Once you have a suitable spot, use a spade to dig a small hole. Lever the ground open before guiding the root ball of the new tree into the ground. You need to press the tree firmly into position using your foot to protect the roots against the British winter. Of course, if you don’t have the space, you can make a donation.
Martin Hughes-Games on the science of trees
Looking at how trees can save the planet, Martin Hughes-Games revealed the astonishing fact that an acre of woodland can absorb in a year as much CO2 as produced by a car travelling 26,000 miles – that’s the circumference of the earth.
It’s all down to photosynthesis, the process by which leaves absorb CO2 through minute pores. The carbon combines with the water to produce food and energy for the tree. The by-product of this process is oxygen, which is pushed out into the atmosphere, cleaning the air we breathe. Best of all, it’s free of charge.
Trees can also help to keep cities cool, which is great news considering that by 2050 more than eight billion people will live in urban environments. Looking at heat maps of cities, it can clearly be seen that parks and green areas are significantly cooler.
By 2050 it is predicted that there may be as many as 7,000 heat-related deaths, and trees can help to combat this by bringing temperatures down in urban areas. They do this by shading and also through the root networks releasing water through the leaves as water vapour – a process called transpiration. A typical oak tree can transpire 200 to 400 litres of water a day.
Trees can also help to improve the air quality, as demonstrated by St Paul’s primary school in Hammersmith. Named as one of the most polluted schools in London, they embarked on a planting campaign to combat the bad air. The pupils planted 17 semi-mature trees with astonishing results, reducing pollution by 25% in a matter of months.
With air pollution contributing to around 30,000 deaths a year in the UK, planting trees is an essential weapon in the fight. Remember that a medium-sized tree can remove around 2kg of impurities from the air every year.
Trees are nature’s way of battling climate change. Reducing temperatures, cleaning the air by reducing CO2 and producing oxygen, and providing invaluable ecosystems for wildlife to flourish – planting more trees could really be the best way to help the planet recover from the damage we have done. Together we can transform the landscape and protect the environment for hundreds of years to come.
Every tree planted makes a difference. That’s why donating just £1.50 to plant a tree is an easy way to help. The FirewoodFund has already donated £306 to the campaign, equivalent to 204 new trees across the UK. It’s a great project and well worth supporting. Just go to Woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant100k to find out more.