Natural regeneration key to doubling woodlands and saving Britain’s crippled forests

Allowing trees to naturally establish over huge areas could massively expand Britain’s woodlands more effectively and at a fraction of the cost of tree planting, according to research by Rewilding Britain.

With Britain one of Europe’s least wooded countries, Rewilding Britain supports a doubling of the country’s woodland cover over the next decade, from 13 percent now to at least 26 percent. This could help absorb 10 percent of current UK greenhouse emissions annually, and help declining wildlife.

It says the Government’s draft England Tree Strategy, open for public consultation to 11 September, is woefully inadequate for tackling the climate and nature crises. More ambitious targets and a fresh approach are needed.

But the Government’s draft strategy for reforestation in England fails to set any tree targets, and at best would raise English woodland cover from 10 percent today to just 12 percent by 2050.

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The Government’s unambitious plans also focus on manual tree planting as a quick fix. But a Rewilding Britain study to be published later this year shows that allowing and enhancing natural regeneration – supported by native tree planting in suitable sites – would be the most effective long-term approach for landscape-scale reforestation.

Flourishing broadleaved forests in coastal southern Norway – once as deforested and bare as much of Britain today – demonstrate how natural regeneration might happen in upland areas like Cumbria without intense grazing pressure and detrimental management such as moorland burning.

Evidence from Friends of the Earth shows there is more than enough suitable land to double England’s tree cover, without affecting precious habitats such as peatlands or valuable farmland.

We can’t replace our lost woodlands by planting alone. Protecting ancient woodland fragments, and allowing and assisting trees to naturally regenerate on a big scale, is the most effective way of reversing the sorry fortunes of our crippled forests and woodlands, and so benefiting people, nature and the climate.”

Letting trees and shrubs naturally regrow over much of their former landscapes – with a helping hand where needed, such as preparing the ground when necessary or sowing tree seeds when naturally available seed sources are too far away – would create woodlands better able than plantations to soak up carbon dioxide, support wildlife, and adapt to a changing climate. Costs and management, imported tree diseases, and plastic tree guards would all be reduced.

If we let them, millions of trees would plant themselves across most of Britain””
Emma S
Rebecca Wrigley

Flourishing broadleaved forests in coastal southern Norway – once as deforested and bare as much of Britain today – demonstrate how natural regeneration might happen in upland areas like Cumbria without intense grazing pressure and detrimental management such as moorland burning.

Evidence from Friends of the Earth shows there is more than enough suitable land to double England’s tree cover, without affecting precious habitats such as peatlands or valuable farmland.

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Flourishing broadleaved forests in coastal southern Norway – once as deforested and bare as much of Britain today – demonstrate how natural regeneration might happen in upland areas like Cumbria without intense grazing pressure and detrimental management such as moorland burning.

Evidence from Friends of the Earth shows there is more than enough suitable land to double England’s tree cover, without affecting precious habitats such as peatlands or valuable farmland.

Flourishing broadleaved forests in coastal southern Norway – once as deforested and bare as much of Britain today – demonstrate how natural regeneration might happen in upland areas like Cumbria without intense grazing pressure and detrimental management such as moorland burning.

Evidence from Friends of the Earth shows there is more than enough suitable land to double England’s tree cover, without affecting precious habitats such as peatlands or valuable farmland.

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