England’s woodland cover could be doubled, mapping suggests


The amount of woodland could be doubled in England without intruding on important habitats or high value farmland, new mapping suggests.

Friends of the Earth and mapping consultancy Terra Sulis, supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery, have devised a map which shows both existing and potential woodland cover in every local authority in England.

It shows that woodland cover could double across England, from a current level of 10%, while avoiding high-value arable land, priority habitats, peat bogs and protected nature sites.

Other land avoided in the calculations included pasture land which has not been ploughed for a number of years and could be home to more diverse plant life.

Much of the opportunity for creating new woodland, which would absorb carbon emissions to tackle climate change, is on low grade pasture land, Friends of the Earth said.

The environmental group said the mapping showed that it was crucial that the Government provides support and funding for farmers and local authorities to grow more trees on their land to help them tackle climate change.

Dozens of local authority areas have the potential to at least double their woodland cover. Some 20 council areas have the potential to quadruple woodlands and 34 could at least triple their wooded areas.

Among the councils with the most opportunity to increase their woodland cover are Northumberland, with 77,000 hectares (190,000 acres) potential new wooded land and Cornwall with 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres).

Shropshire has 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of potential new woodland, and Eden District has 43,000 hectares (106,000 acres), the map suggests.

It does not include the potential for trees in urban areas, such as more street trees and planting in parks and gardens, which could provide significantly more opportunities to grow trees in England, Friends of the Earth said.

The map, which allows people to search for the potential to create new woodland cover in their local area so they can lobby their council for more trees, is being launched ahead of National Tree Week from November 30.

Friends of the Earth is calling for local councils to commit to boosting woodland cover and for a national target to be included in the England Tree Strategy, expected this winter.

Danny Gross, tree campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “We’re calling on Forestry minister Zac Goldsmith to mark next week’s National Tree Week by setting an ambitious target to boost tree cover in England.

“Growing more trees would help us fight climate breakdown while enabling more people to access nature in their local area.

“We need more councils to step up and grow more trees but it’s time that ministers in Westminster offer more funding for climate action at a local level.”

Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “This mapping research shows the game-changing potential of local climate action.

“Trees are a highly valuable natural solution to address the climate crisis so I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting research into woodland creation and tree planting in communities across the country.”

The map can be found here:

An Environment Department spokesperson said: “Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.

“We have already consulted on our England Tree Strategy and announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund, which will be vital tools in ensuring we work closely with communities and landowners to accelerate tree planting and meet this ambitious target.”

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