Should we be planting more trees in Britain?

As part of our series of blogs about the upcoming vote on WI resolutions for 2015 (for more details, see our earlier blog post), we’re considering the use of antibiotics. We’re writing these posts to kick-start the debate about these issues in advance of our December meeting; they don’t reflect any particular view or an ‘official’ view of the Sotonettes Committee so please read them with that in mind. We want to know what our members think so please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

“The NFWI urges Her Majesty’s government to start a continuous national broadleaf tree planting programme to replace vital woodlands lost in previous decades. WIs in consultation with their local councils and community groups will be asked to plant trees in celebration of the centenary and to benefit future generations.”

Woodland has been diminishing significantly since the Middle Ages as land for other uses has been sought after. During the period since the Middle Ages, the UK population has grown enormously and land has been needed for our housing, roads & rail for our transport, and increasing large scale and intensive agricultural systems, among many others. Today, just 13% of the UK is woodland.

We are now becoming increasingly aware of the great array of benefits our native woodlands have to offer:

  •  Trees are the lungs of the planet and provide a vital function of cleaning the air and producing the oxygen that we breathe! – Our main native trees, of the broadleaf and deciduous varieties (approximately half of UK woodland), are extremely important for biodiversity, supporting a wide range of wildlife.
  •  Alongside our agricultural landscapes, our woodlands are a defining feature of the UK and are an important part of the heritage, identity and character of our countryside and the settings of our cities, towns and villages.
  • Widely reported studies have shown the value of trees and woodlands to our quality of life, mental health, physical health and wider wellbeing. People who live with views and/or access to green spaces including trees report greater health and wellbeing.
  • There are also economic benefits to trees as well! Recent studies have been carried out into the economic value of trees and these studies show that houses with views and/or access to green space and trees have a higher value, and that retail areas with trees report greater visitors and higher takings!

Trees and woodlands, especially broadleaf deciduous trees, take time to mature to a point where the above benefits can come into play. Tree planting is an investment into the environment for future years.

Identifying land for such woodlands is unlikely to be an easy task. Land in the UK, especially in the south east of England is highly sought after for more financially lucrative development opportunities such as retail or housing which pushes up the land values. Also, many of the woodlands in public ownership by the Forestry Commission contain conifers which offer fewer benefits to wildlife.

Despite this not being an easy task at the larger scale, the rewards are many! Through this campaign, the WI can help raise awareness, and, we can make our own local contribution by planting trees to mark the centenary of the WI!


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