About trees, hedgerows and climate change:

How many trees does the UK need to plant to help in the fight against climate change?

The Committee on Climate Change announced in March 2019 that we need to plant 30,000 hectares of trees each year until 2050 as part of measures to reduce UK carbon emissions.

Reaching this target will require huge commitment from everyone, from individuals, to large landowners, to businesses and farmers.

We not only need to plant and care for new trees, we also need to look after what we already have and encourage re-wilding, planting from seed, establishing and managing hedgerows, as well as boosting and bolstering the capacity of UK tree nurseries.

Tree planting, if followed up with proper aftercare, can play a key role in tackling climate change, but it is only one of the actions that we all need to take to address the climate emergency.

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Which trees are the best to capture carbon?

There is not one simple answer to this question. For example, fast-growing trees will store the most carbon quickly but long-living trees can hold carbon for longer. In addition, new research states that hedgerows can help store significant carbon in their roots below ground, as well as above ground.

Over enthusiastic planting of any one tree species leaves the UK treescape more vulnerable to pests and diseases, as if a disease emerges that badly affects that tree species, it could wipe out millions of trees in one fell swoop.

The most important thing is to plant the right tree in the right place, to establish a diverse range of trees and to give them the best chance to grow into mature trees which have the greatest capacity for carbon capture.

Why are hedgerows being planted as well as trees?

Hedgerows are amazing. They are England’s largest priority habitat, supporting over 2,000 precious species – bumble bees, for example, use them to guide their foraging activity. They capture carbon above and below ground, alleviate flooding, provide corridors of connectivity for wildlife – and gather up particulates pollution to improve the air we breathe.

Despite this, we have seen the loss of 50% of our hedgerows since World War II, leaving great gaps in the maps of our cities and the countryside. The Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to extend hedges by 40% means that 200,000km of hedgerow needs to be planted in the UK to help tackle climate change – that’s 3 metres of hedgerow per person in the UK.



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