LlyG member blog – COP21 Paris Week – how can community woodlands in Wales address climate change?

Posted on December 4, 2015 by Comments are off

In a week that sees world leaders meet to talk about the challenges of climate change, Adam Thorogood, LlyG member, and Rosie Strang, LlyG Network Coordinator look at how community woodlands can engage and address these here at home in Wales.

From the 30th November to the 11th December the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) takes place in Paris. The COP is an annual meeting of all countries which want to take action for the climate, but decisions about what form that action should take have been complex and difficult to make. What we now know is that inertia is not an option, we need to see real and deep changes in order to prevent runaway climate change.

Welsh minister Carl Sargeant has expressed the governments  hopes for COP21, and Prince Charles this week highlighted the important role Forestry has to play part of climate change discussions. But what does this mean for us on the ground as community woodlands in Wales?

What is climate change?

For a simple background the Llais y Goedwig advisory note – ‘An introduction to Climate Change’ gives an overview on what climate change is, and how do we know that climate change is actually happening.

Crucially, for us as practical woodlanders, it also looks at what does climate change mean for woodlands in Wales, and what community woodlands can do to address the challenges it presents.

Read up – climate change and woodlands

Climate change is something to be prepared for but the high levels of uncertainty make it difficult to know what to do. A first step is to find out more about climate change and its impact on woodlands, there’s lots of good information out there.

For a specific look at climate change and woodlands, there are more than 40 reports and articles on climate change and woodlands on the Llais y Goedwig website here.

Observe your woods

Observation plays a very important role in assessing change in your woods ‐ monitor your woodland. See if there are any changes in the seasonality of events. For example, when does  Oak bud burst happen? Which species do you have which depend on oak? Are there any changes in these relationships? Monitoring woodland biodiversity can be a great way to get the local community involved and will help you to notice changes in the numbers of or arrival/departure of certain migratory species.

However, remember that climate change is about long‐term averages so you will need a long series of data to reliably identify trends. But as a community group you are perhaps better placed than most others to set up monitoring which can be continued for long periods of time. As you accumulate your data you will also be learning a lot about the ecology of your woods and there is great satisfaction to be gained from close observation of nature. Remeber to share your data with the Biological Records Centre, they can use these local data to monitor long term changes on a national scale.

Also, you can get advice on key species to look out for and contribute your records to the Woodland Trust’s Natures Calendar project. Woodland Trust.

Manage – create resilient woodlands

Keep your management plans flexible. By observing changes closely, your community group will be able to respond by adapting your management plan to react to what is happening and make your woodland more resilient. It has been shown that woodlands with mixed ages and species of trees are better able to survive shocks than even‐aged, single‐species stands of trees. Gradual changes to stand structure to favour greater complexity, would be a good step to increase resilience. Think about some of the direct and indirect impacts that climate change will bring. How prepared is your woodland for these? Other Advisory Notes in this series can help you to write a management plan for your woodland.

Climate change will impact on the ecological process that take place within your group’s woodland but also it will have an impact on the demands which the local community could put on local natural resources. Will there be a growing demand for local firewood for example? Is your group able to adapt to changing local needs and provide for these sustainably?

Promote and plant local provenance trees

Trees grown from local seed (local provenance) are better adapted to local climate and conditions. But what will happen when the local climate changes?

Well, it’s still worth using local provenance trees. Remember that all native trees have successfully survived the changes that have occurred since the last ice age but this was when forests where bigger and naturally more resilient – they now need our help. Think about how your woodland could connect up with neighbouring woodland sites through the creation of habitat corridors.

Our woodlands are a lot smaller and fragmented so you may wish to hedge your bets and include some trees from other provenance zones. A well organised tree nursery could also be an ideal place to introduce new provenances in a controlled and monitored way in order to introduce more genetic diversity to your woodland.  Useful link – www.nativetrees.org.uk.    The Silvifutures website has a good database of novel forestry trees for resilience in forest planning.

Natural regeneration is also important to work with alongside planting. Naturally regenerated trees have a much better start in life than a planted tree. Over the generations, trees that have seeded from on site genetic material will become attuned to soil and site conditions.

Resilience is the key factor here in planning for the uncertainty that climate disruption will bring and that means diversity of age class of tree, of species and of provenance.

Influence your community (and beyond)

A community group can be the ideal forum for taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. If people can see the adverse effects on their local woodland, they might be more inspired to reduce their carbon emissions. Home insulation, choosing renewable energy, sharing resources locally; your community woodland group could become a real low‐ carbon hub.

Engage with updates and opportunities in Wales

Wales wide updates

Stop Climate Chaos Cymru is a coalition of 14 influential Welsh organisations that collectively represents the views of thousands of people in Wales

Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales is the leading organisation for sustainable development in Wales.

Lobby your Assembly Member – make a noise about climate change mitigation and adaptation through your local AM.

Be mentored or provide mentoring with Renew Wales – Renew Wales supports community based action on climate change across Wales

 

 

 

 

 

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Climate panic – plant trees! Behind the headlines

Posted on February 5, 2020 by Comments are off

The Llais y Goedwig response to climate change goes back to our very beginnings with Advisory note 5: An introduction to climate change [1] followed by various blogs[2] over the years and continues in the form of current proposals for community tree nurseries. However, climate change has jumped up the agenda and in response this blog has been prepared to brief LlyG members on the latest developments. With special reference to the declaration by Welsh Government of a climate emergency[3], the setting of a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050[4] and how this relates to tree planting initiatives.  It forms the start of what we hope will be an information exchange with members that will lead to a Llais y Goedwig position statement and strategy for engagement with climate change action.

LlyG members have valuable knowledge of woodlands and the benefits they bring to local communities and should seek to engage with policy relevant to tree planting as far as they are able. Should we follow the lead of the Woodland Trust, with their Emergency Tree Plan for the UK, and the National Trust and set out a collective agenda for tree planting? What could we offer? Many of us don’t have land to plant but are custodians of existing woodland – should we say something about restoring them to enhance their role as carbon stores? Could we serve as advocates for woodland creation to our neighbours?

Please read the information below and let us know your ideas on how Llais y Goedwig members can best contribute to action on climate change – contact policy@llaisygoedwig.org.uk with your thoughts and respond to upcoming posts and threads on the Llais y Goedwig facebook page

 

Climate panic – plant trees! Behind the headlines – A blog by Dr Jenny Wong

Action on climate change has recently been boosted into a much more prominent place in the public arena by the mobilisation of mass action such as the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion. As Greta Thunberg[5] says – the normal response to a ‘crisis’ is to ‘panic’ and do something! But what can we practically do? Beyond protesting for political and economic changes to divest from fossil fuels there are various ‘top ten’ lists[6] of personal actions that can be taken to help reduce your carbon footprint. None of these mention forestry. So how is it that tree planting has become so prominent as a climate action? In part, perhaps, as a reaction to the report published in July 2019 in the journal Science[7] and widely picked up by the media[8]. The paper presents figures indicating that if all 1.7 bn ha of treeless land were planted with 1.2 trillion native trees that over 50-100 years this would remove 200 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere amounting to 2/3rds of all the carbon emissions from human activities. This has been picked up as suggesting that “Planting billions of trees across the world is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis”[9]. This has spawned many initiatives – globally in the form of the Trillion trees initiative[10] as well as more local ones offering carbon offsetting (e.g. Carbon Footprint[11]).

Another urgent call to action is the biodiversity crisis[12] which also demands urgent action and transformative change[13]. With David Attenborough[14] arguing that we can no longer prevaricate, that we know what to do and the time for action is now. The role of trees in this context is less clear-cut – for biodiversity it’s not planting fast-growing trees which is needed but protection and restoration of forest and mangroves alongside salt-marches, wetlands, bogs and coastal seas[15] all of which capture and store carbon. The 1.7 bn ha to be planted for carbon capture in the trillion trees scenario includes all open land in the UK capable of growing native trees which is not cropland. This would mean planting all land used for grazing which would include all pasture, ffridd and moorland – much of which constitutes important habitats and are themselves important stores of soil carbon. Although planting trees is a good idea there is a note of caution that this is just a contribution not a solution to carbon reduction and this does not mean trees everywhere are equally good[16]. In Wales there is much made of putting the “right tree in the right place”[17] but what this might mean at site level depends on your point of view – either more or less pro-carbon or pro-biodiversity or indeed your stance on the production and consumption of meat and wool. We therefore find ourselves caught between two existential crises seeking actions which can usefully contribute to both.

How many trees should we plant in the UK?

First, let’s look at some numbers to put the contribution that tree planting can make to carbon budgets into perspective. The Woodland Carbon Code[18] is a voluntary standard for new UK woodlands to permit verifiable and accredited claims to be made about the amount of carbon they sequester to facilitate carbon-offset trading. So, this is perhaps a good place to look for information on the carbon contribution of trees grown in the UK. The Carbon Code currently has 8,261 ha of land validated for the scheme. Once verified this will provide net capture of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 over 100 years. This amounts to 411 tonnes per ha over 100 hundred years. The average person in the UK had a carbon footprint of 7.96 tonnes per year (in 2015[19]). So, if you wanted to plant enough trees to cancel a lifetimes’ carbon emissions you’d need to plant just under 1.5 ha of trees at birth and 30 years after dying at 70 your life-time carbon debt would be cancelled. There are 68 million people in the UK so we’d need roughly 1 million sq km of trees but we only have 242,000 sq km of land…. The message is not to give up – but to plant as many trees as feasible AND switch to renewables, save the peat bogs, look after the oceans and everything else we are being exhorted to do.

The UK Committee on Climate Change’s recent (CCC, 23rd January 2020) report “Land Use Policies for a Net Zero UK”[20] looks at a wide range of issues related to how landscapes need to change and is well worth a read. The CCC recommend a target of 1.5 billion trees to be planted across the UK by 2050 alongside a wide raft of other measures to reduce emissions and sequester (capture and store) carbon such as restoration of peat bogs. Achieving this level of afforestation would require planting of 30,000 ha per year until 2050 to raise forest cover from 13% to 17% of UK land area. It is inevitable that for this to happen we would need to accept large scale changes to land use and landscape character. CCC also point out that in the uplands we sit on a seesaw between peat restoration and tree planting being the best way to contribute to reduction of net carbon emissions. This consideration is particularly relevant to much of Wales.

But in the UK where landscape is often highly contested – how can we reach a consensus on the types and locations of changes? Is this something LlyG can contribute to here in Wales?

Tree planting in the UK

Strong government policy to drive large scale afforestation isn’t something new to the UK. Indeed, afforestation is what the UK is famous for. In 1919 the UK was just 5% forest and as a consequence of government policy backed with funding by 2019 it was 13% (3.19 million ha) – matching levels last seen in the 13th century. Afforestation rates up to the 1990’s was high – reaching > 30,000 ha per year in 1988 and 1989. However, since then the rate of new planting slowed as attention shifted away from afforestation. However, since 2010 higher planting targets were introduced related to balancing carbon budgets and has become highly politicised with bizarre tree planting pledge bidding wars in the campaigning prior to the December 2019 general election[21]. The Conservatives promised 15,000 ha of new trees …. we’ll have to wait and see what actually gets planted. In Wales the Plaid Cymru target appeared modest at 2,000 ha per year but it is in fact the tree planting target in the current Woodlands for Wales Strategy[22] which is deemed “essential to delivery of the climate change and decarbonisation obligations” as well as many other benefits.

Planting targets and achievements across the UK for 2019 are:

Unsurprisingly, the CCC finds that “the existing policy framework has been insufficient to meet the emissions reduction set out in our first five legislated carbon budgets”. Basically, Wales is doing pretty badly and falling a long way short of the target – though Scotland is doing well – so large-scale new plantings can still be done in the UK.

In the presence of what appears to be a failure of government policy-led initiatives in England and Wales to deliver on tree planting, people and civil society organisations are looking to plant what they can[23] – with some notable successes but also not without problems.

The Woodland Trust has its Big climate fightback with provision of 700,000 free trees for planting – of which 44,145 made it to Wales[24] supported by the Guardian’s 2019 a “A tree is for life” campaign in support of four tree planting charities[25].

The National Trust does have land to plant and has recently[26] unveiled plans to reach net zero carbon by 2030 which includes planting of 20 million trees on 18,000 ha over the next ten years. This has caused some consternation among tenant farmers especially here in Wales[27] as previous large-scale afforestation led o depopulation and negative impacts on Welsh language, food production and communities.

Why are we failing to meet planting targets in Wales?

A second blog will pick up the story from here and outline some of the barriers to planting trees in Wales.

Policy paper for further reading:

Committee on Climate Change (2020) Land Use Policies for a Net Zero UK.

https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/land-use-policies-for-a-net-zero-uk/

 

References

[1] http://llaisygoedwig.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/AN5-An-introduction-to-Climate-Change.pdf (

[2] http://llaisygoedwig.org.uk/?x=0&y=0&s=climate+change&lang=en (blog)

[3] https://gov.wales/welsh-government-makes-climate-emergency-declaration (press release)

[4] https://gov.wales/written-statement-response-committee-climate-changes-net-zero-report (press release)

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14w8WC1I3S4 (13 min speech)

[6] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20181102-what-can-i-do-about-climate-change

[7] Bastin et al (2019) The global tree restoration potential. Science 365(6448): 76-79. DOI: 10.1126/science.aax0848 (academic paper)

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions (newspaper article)

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

[10] https://www.trilliontrees.org/

[11] https://www.carbonfootprint.com/plantingtrees.html

[12] https://news.ku.dk/all_news/2012/2012.1/biodiversity/ (press release)

[13] Diaz et al (2019) Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change. Science 366(6471): DOI: 10.1126/science.aax3100 (academic paper)

[14] https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p080jx29/the-big-interviews-sir-david-attenborough-blasts-inaction-on-climate-change (2 min video)

[15] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/03/let-nature-heal-climate-and-biodiversity-crises-say-campaigners (article + video)

[16] https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/tree-planting-climate-change-trump-greta-thunberg-philippines-a9299256.html

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/dec/28/replanting-britain-its-about-the-right-tree-in-the-right-place (newspaper article)

[18] https://woodlandcarboncode.org.uk/

[19] http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/SeriesDetail.aspx?srid=751

[20] https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/land-use-policies-for-a-net-zero-uk/ (download page with summary – full report is 123 pages)

[21] BBC More or less: Behind the scenes https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07x4q52 (9 min audio)

[22] https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-06/woodlands-for-wales-strategy_0.pdf

[23] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2019/09/22/woodland-trust-asks-one-million-britons-plant-tree-government/ (newspaper article)

[24] https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/press-centre/2019/11/free-trees-for-communities/ (Press release)

[25] https://www.theguardian.com/society/video/2019/dec/19/play-your-part-in-the-guardians-charity-appeal-a-tree-is-for-life-video

[26] https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/press-release/national-trust-outlines-fresh-ambition-in-landmark-speech-by-director-general

[27] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-51182034

 

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BLOG: Scotlands community woodland conference

Posted on December 11, 2019 by Comments are off

Community Woodlands Association (CWA) Conference 2019

Overarching themes: People, climate change and wellbeing

The urban theme was a strong element of the conference. Even stronger, was the issue of climate change, land use and how to get people’s voices heard.

Chatelherault Country Park Hall, Hamilton, Scotland
28 -29 September 2019

Blog by Jonathan Burke

Introduction

This was my second trip to a CWA conference, and thank fully it did not take as long as two years ago – up to Forres in the North East of Scotland. This time we were placed firmly in the Central belt of Scotland – where all the people are. Our venue was Chatelherault Country Park Hall near Hamilton, a mere 15 miles outside the centre of Glasgow and located in part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve. Built in the 18th Century, the hall was derelict until the local Council renovated it in the 1980’s. Now it provides people with a place for recreation and stimulation gained from those grand expressions of architectural freedom that were designed to highlight society’s control over nature.

The other side of Chatelherault Hall has a PAWS site running through terrifically wild looking gorges that counter act and amplify the formal classical vista created at the front of the building. The grounds are also home to the Cadzow Oaks; ancient parkland behemoths of up to 4m wide and at least several hundred years old. So quite a setting to discuss in depth our use of community woodlands, urban green spaces and the impact we have on the climate from our use of the land.

Workshops, talks, field trips and food

The provision of fine tasting, plentiful food and drink was a key element for delegates to sustain the frenetic pace of engagement with wide ranging issues. A substantial evening meal followed by a live acoustic folk band also provided the perfect environment for informal networking – the best way to meet and make new friends and colleagues.

The two-day agenda ranged from national green projects aimed at connecting people, places and habitats to members stories of building those project aims from the ground up. The variety was dizzying, and the conference had a great balance of serious soul-searching talk mixed with humour and heart-warming insights.

Here is a small taster of the content.

The Children’s Wood – North Kelvin Meadow, Glasgow

Emily Cutts introduced us to the mammoth community struggle to reclaim a small piece of wasteland for the community to use that was earmarked for development by Glasgow CC. We heard of the benefits to the community of forming safe access to green space for children to gather and the cumulative effects of providing support for community voices. She retold how once people realized the inherent need of a sense of place to galvanise a cohesive community vision, they became an unstoppable force. A real modern urban community woodland that is all about the people within the trees. The list of tasks and events necessary to get to the current stage is awe inspiring and apparently makes a good read in Emily’s book – ‘The Dear Wild Place’. The group aims to connect people to nature, raise aspirations and involve people in management of the land. On occasions when anti-social behaviour or damage occurs, they have an approach of fixing the issue and moving on. They do not let these incidents deter them.

The Central Scotland Green Network project

The network has a vision that ‘by 2050 central Scotland will have been transformed into a place where the environment adds value to the economy, and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality’.

Public benefit from trees and woodland is central to the Trusts vision.

The network concentrates mostly but not only on the central belt of Scotland, because that is where all the people are and have the highest levels of social and economic deprivation.

The project is developing green infrastructure blueprints that include things like access to growing land and green space for every home, cycle networks and walking paths. These elements can be overlaid on a tube station type map to show the interconnectivity of green infrastructure across a region. Two examples were shown of a strategic Green Network and a Strategic Habitat Network. Both seemed visual and accessible ways of understanding the environment around people. These tools can be used by people to access and use landscapes in new ways. They can also be a valuable tool for planners and activists alike providing ways of talking about green resources that show action not just fine words or numbers. This is just a part of what the Trust is offering. Their flagship John Muir Way project is well worth a look, boasting 134 mile route from coast to coast partnering (and working with) 10 access authorities and various landowners along the way.

Evanton Wood Community Company

Doug Wilson introduced us to this long running, community owned forest. Based to the East of the Highlands, just North of the black isle along the Cromarty Firth (15 crow flying miles North of Inverness). They have good support from Forestry & Land Scotland (devolved Forestry Commission Scotland) who continue to provide funding for projects such as their new reciprocal roundhouse and advise on management of their woodlands. Including the use of horse logging for the extraction of their timber, which was used on the roundhouse and other builds. This is just one of the many activities that occur in this wide-ranging successful community woodland. One of the most memorable, was making the woods access and dementia friendly. This strategic development has allowed several projects to make use of the woodland such as ‘getting outdoors’, ‘exploring the woodlands’, ‘woodland baking’, ‘memory blankets’ as well as wood, art and craftwork sessions. The alterations seem simple enough – accessible log cabin, picnic tables with easy leg access, well thought out composting toilet, landscaped areas and pathways for easy walking. It provides a glowing example of community initiatives leading the way on contemporary public issues.

Carbon Code?

Maybe it was too late in the day for me but I found this technical policy-based idea quite frustrating; It is a system of assigning carbon credits to new woodlands which can be sold to businesses to offset their carbon emissions. These credits can only be assigned to carbon code validated woodlands that are managed to a certain carbon code standard. They cannot be assigned to woodlands that already exist.

It sounds like a good idea but seemed very process heavy. A project title of ‘New Woodland Carbon Credits’ may have sat easier, and some discussion about the value of the carbon sequestration of all other trees may have balanced the issue. But it is an interesting and timely policy if you own a lot of land and are planning on planting large volumes of new trees. (Young trees do sequester more carbon)

Climate change – facilitated consultation for the Scottish Government

The prospect was and still is daunting; Serious and humorous group discussions about climate change, its impact and what we need to do. (50 mins to save the world!) The outcome was a sense of relief and optimism that these issues are at least being discussed across the populace and doing something is nearly always better than doing nothing. (Although the Government devised questions did bring to mind the phrase ‘DON’T PANIC!’ Said a little bit too loudly.)

Some key issues highlighted

  • There was a general agreement that words coming from institutions and governments that change leadership every few years, do not and will not provide the action necessary to mitigate our future climate related problems.
  • There was a strong recognition that changes to the fundamental structure with the way society is governed including economic models, are needed to address the enormity of the work necessary to address climate change issues.

Talking about all this is good:

  • The scale and impact is overwhelming and can only be addressed when nations can cooperate. If ways to decide and implement these structural changes are not found, there was a growing concern that the only way to implement the difficult policies needed will be an authoritarian approach.

What are our mechanisms for a mass amount of people to imagine a future that is beyond the normal capabilities of the institutions that govern our society?

  • Citizen councils were suggested as a way of the populace discussing bigger issues over a longer time frame that may support institutions with challenging decisions.
  • And just to round off this ‘acting local but thinking global’ session, we heard about, and discussed new economic models for making better sustainable decisions. As there must be something that needs adjusting with the current waywe decide on how to use our energy and resources that ignores all those tricky externalities. ‘Donut Economics’ incorporates easily defined protocols that take communities and future generations needs into account as well as circular methods of production and distribution. Well worth some extra research and a completely new idea to most of us around the table.

Take home message

  • Scotland’s community woodlands have many groups that own and manage large forests in the tens and hundreds of hectares providing employment and energy but they also have groups that have carved huge community engagement and sense of ‘ownership of place’ from very small urban green spaces.
  • For me, climate change was the biggest issue being talked about in Scotland. All types of land use have an impact and they are all connected. Community groups not only have a responsibility to look after the land for the future generations but also to engage in as much focussed and facilitated conversations to help find and guide these solutions. The scale of the problem may seem impossible, but the responsibility comes down to making sure action happens on the ground and not just listening to the same old fine words.
  • The higher the density of people around a community woodland then the more the focus is on peoples needs. Whereas the larger forests that have lower local populations connected to them tended to have a greater focus on the woodland and its sustainable management.
  • Time and again I saw evidence of people being active on and for their local green spaces in a way that generated community cohesion as well as having a small but relevant impact on the wider environment. They developed a clear voice and were supported to affect change for the public good. A key approach was to ‘keep at it’ or ‘Dal ati’ in Welsh. If the notice board is defaced or broken then they make another one and build consensus until it stops happening.
  • From an outsider’s point of view, the Scots seem to have access to, support for and ownership of their land. Although there was a definite feeling at the conference of a lot more needing to be done, and some disappointment in the channels of communication from communities to policy makers.
  • At the AGM a brave soul suggested a need for recognition of a more authentic connection with our land, green spaces and woodland. This could help inform all our strategies of land use as well as elevate the growing awareness of peoples declining wellbeing. Although the response at the AGM was that it was probably not the appropriate forum for these types of discussion, the voice was heard and that alone engenders some sort of hope.

 

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Private UK forestry unprepared for environmental change

Posted on January 3, 2016 by Comments are off

A report published in December, titled Awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community relating to environmental change: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2015, reveals that private forestry in the UK is falling well short of standards of best practice relating to adaptation to environmental change. While forestry professionals are partially aware and active in planning for environmental change, many woodland owners are not.

About the British Woodlands Survey

The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about the UK’s woodlands and those who care for them. It aims to provide an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. BWS2015 is the third survey in the series. The British Woodlands Survey is co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation within its think-tank Forestry Horizons.

For more information visit: www.sylva.org.uk/forestryhorizons/bws

Survey Scope and Purpose 

The purpose of BWS2015 was to explore adaptation to environmental change in British woodlands, and their potential resilience, by assessing awareness, action and aspiration among woodland owners, managers and related professionals*. The intention was to create a baseline of evidence against which change can be measured in future. There are various policy contexts for this evidence, outlined in the report.

The survey was also designed to accompany the 2015 Climate Change Accord1 , signed by more than 30 organisations within the forestry sector that coalesced around a call for action to be taken to ensure our trees, woods and forests are more resilient.

*Almost three quarters of the UK’s woodlands (2,283,000 ha; Forestry Commission 2015) are in private ownership.

Read full report here – http://sylva.org.uk/forestryhorizons/downloads/BWS2015report.pdf

See related article on forestry and climate change here – http://llaisygoedwig.org.uk/cop21-paris-week-how-can-community-woodlands-in-wales-address-climate-change/

 

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Achieving Tree Planting Targets in Wales

Posted on June 2, 2020 by Comments are off

Amidst the profound changes to ordinary life required to tackle Covid-19 many in our communities have rediscovered the value of woodland. These renewed connections with the local environment and nature should provide fertile support for the creation of new woodland as proposed by Welsh Government as a response to the climate emergency and zero-carbon targets. However, to take advantage of community support for tree planting we need a programme of effective support to on-the-ground action from Welsh Government. Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with existing support and even the modest Welsh tree planting targets are not being met. Now is a good time to examine the causes of this to be ready to promote tree planting in our local communities once it is safe to do so.

The current target for planting of new woodlands in Wales is 2,000 ha per year and it is not being achieved – but where did the target for Wales come from? Why is it apparently not working? What can we as custodians of Community Woodlands do to help? Read the following blog by LlyG member Dr Jenny Wong exploring the reasons we’re not achieving the targets in Wales and suggesting a way forward………

We need action to achieve pragmatic levels of tree planting in Wales to meet the challenges of the climate emergency while appreciating the need to protect biodiversity, restore habitats and respect cultural and historical features in the landscape and we’d love to hear your views on what these should be – possibly:

  • Larger scale investment in incentives for tree planting
  • Revision of procedures for delivering woodland creation grants and implementing EIA for afforestation
  • Review of Woodland Opportunities Map

To support and recognise the contribution of other tree planting and natural regeneration.

  • Regular estimates of area of growing trees from remote sensing to give an indicator of increasing woodland cover to supplement statistics derived from uptake of grant schemes
  • Incorporate new trees identified from urban tree canopy cover data into tree planting statistics
  • Consider incentive scheme for non-area-based tree planting e.g. for urban areas, hedgerows etc.

To recognise that woodland benefits arises from presence of trees not seedlings.

  • Link support for tree planting to management plans and a commitment to long-term management
  • Introduction of support for ongoing management of woodlands to enhance benefits e.g. carbon, timber quality, biodiversity etc.

And finally, to recognise that local communities can be powerful allies in tree planting, woodland management and mobilisation of climate change action.

 

Tree planting in Wales

Back in 2010 the Welsh Government policy was to establish 100,000 ha of new woodland of mainly native trees by 2030. This target was picked out of the Land Use and Climate Change Group report as a means to offset greenhouse gases produced by Wales’ agriculture and forestry[1]. This gave a 5,000 Ha annual target though given the low uptake of tree planting grants at the time and appreciation of multiple barriers to tree planting the Woodland for Wales strategy set the target to 2,000 ha as something with more potential to be achieved. The graph below shows the annual rate of official i.e. grant-aided new woodland creation from 1971 to 2019.

The first point to note is that we have had policy supporting tree planting as a response to climate change for some time already though admittedly it’s not been very effective to date. Secondly, there are precedents for planting rates in Wales exceeding 2000 ha per year – but not since the early 1970’s with rates in recent years among the lowest since the formation of the Forestry Commission (in 1919). The high planting rates required to raise the woodland area in Wales from 102,615 ha (4.9% of land area) in 1924 to 309,000 ha (15% of land area) in 2019 was largely achieved directly by the government (i.e. by the Forestry Commission) and private large-scale commercial plantations supported by grant and fiscal (tax) incentives. These programmes came to an end in the 1980’s. Woodland creation is now primarily a small-scale private sector activity with very little new woodland being created by NRW or other public bodies such as Councils. This means the only way for Government to seek to have its tree planting ambitions met is to provide incentives – usually in the form of grant aid towards the costs of tree planting. Since 1994 we have had a succession of grant schemes for planting new woodland: the Woodland Grant Scheme (1994-2005), Better Woodlands for Wales (2006-2010), Glastir Woodland Management scheme (2011-2015) and the current Glastir Woodland Creation scheme.

In addition to grant support for planting, NRW also regulates new woodland creation by requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all forestry projects over 2 ha in National Parks, AONB or National Scenic Area or 5 ha everywhere else[2]. There are many complaints from people wishing to plant that the procedures and timeframe for the EIA are both onerous, protracted and with uncertain outcomes. Altogether this acts as a disincentive for larger scale planting in Wales as EIA thresholds in Scotland are 20 ha for schemes outside a sensitive area. So, it is argued, people seriously looking to make an investment in afforestation are more likely to choose sites in Scotland than Wales. This appears to be borne out by significantly higher rates of new woodland creation in Scotland (in 2019 this was 11,210 ha while Wales had 240 ha) though this isn’t the only difference in incentives between the two countries.

For schemes of all sizes, it is the accessibility and uptake of the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme which determines the rate of planting. Glastir Woodland Creation scheme provides grants of £3,000, £3,600 and £4,500 per ha depending on the species mix with the highest rate for ‘Native woodland – Carbon’ with an annual premium payment of £350 per ha for the 12 years of the Glastir contract. Generally, there seem to be few complaints about these rates. Interest in tree planting has been growing and GWC Window 7 (closed in April 2019) had expressions of interest for 2,800 ha but only 510 ha were actually planted in 2019 (arising from Window 6).

Why is so little land being planted by the GWC scheme?

The easy answer is insufficient funding – only £3 million was allocated to GWC in 2019. Even if all of this was used for planting it would only cover ~ 1000 ha of planting – half the target. But even so only ¼ of this area was actually planted so there is more to this than a simple lack of cash.

There appear to be two bottlenecks: perverse procedures[3] and regulations which cant the inevitable trade-offs with existing land use towards protection of biodiversity. Given there are likely to be changes in GWC with Brexit and the shift to the proposed Sustainable Land Management scheme, the hope is that procedures will be improved and the experience of all previous planting grants[4] will be distilled into any new scheme. In particular it would be good to see the re-introduction of support provided by BWW for woodland management plans and a presumption for provision of public access.

The handling of trade-off between the benefits of new woodland with potential adverse impacts are more intractable. The first stage of screening planting proposals (of all GWC applicants regardless of size – this is not an EIA) is the Woodland Opportunities Map. This map indicates areas and locales which contain notable heritage features (defined by CADW), nitrate sensitive catchments (to protect water quality) and biodiversity (potential habitats for key species). Each of these constraints are overlaid to indicate areas where planting woodlands would have minimal impact – the so-called Woodland Opportunities Map[5] as shown below. Note that this is primarily concerned with identifying areas where planting will be uncontested – it is only where there are no other constraints are areas where tree would be of most value is identified (as the darker shades of green).

The areas coloured green on the map apparently identifies a large area available for planting, however, closer inspection of the map reveals it has some very odd features – cut out squares indicating biodiversity grid square based records, blobs showing buffer zones around archaeological features and many features labelled as ‘potential habitat’ which may or may not contain a key species. This fragmentation and ambiguity means that many proposed planting sites are flagged as having some constraint or other which means schemes can be rejected with the applicant then having to appeal which in turn triggers a site visit. This slows down the processing of applications and introduces uncertainty which are a disincentive for applicants and a source of frustration for those who do apply. Dealing with such procedural issues seem like obvious actions if the Government is serious about tree planting.

However, there are underlying problems with EIA and the Opportunities map which are more profound and require an acceptance that landscapes will need to change a re-think about how to negotiate land use change, and a more creative approach to trade-offs between competing objectives for land management. There are several arenas in which these negotiations could take place. For example; within the proposed Sustainable Land Management Scheme, in planning for the National Forest, in climate change policy where the tree planting target originated and even co-produced with communities within the Area statements.

Making every tree count

An important consideration in the attainment of planting target are the numbers which go into the official figures. The area of new woodland created reported by the Government is taken as the area planted under the Glastir Woodland Creation grants. This will not include non-grant aided planting nor trees which spontaneously appear on rough grazing when stocking levels are reduced. There are few statistics on either of these processes though over time they will be reflected in the area of woodland as recorded by the National Forest Inventory which is based on remote sensing. So, any of the free Woodland Trust trees you maybe planting and much of the planting in urban areas won’t get counted in official statistics nor any natural regeneration won’t get counted until they’ve grown large enough to be visible on the satellite imagery used in the National Forest Inventory. This in itself is a useful observation – you really haven’t captured carbon until planted seedlings are trees – and planted areas are woodland. This takes some time and taking care of the trees to ensure they survive, and flourish is as important as planting them in the first place. There used to be grant support for management planning and woodland maintenance e.g. repairs to fences, weeding, thinning etc. but grants are now entirely focussed on woodland creation. The Carbon Code[6] represents best practice in planting for carbon sequestration and it requires long term management plans and a commitment by the landowner to the permanence[7] of the carbon removal. Although we would not expect all new planting to meet the exacting standards of the Carbon Code the principle of long-term commitment to management of newly planted trees and woodland is critical to realise the many future benefits they can provide.

Policy paper for further reading:

Committee on Climate Change (2020) Land Use Policies for a Net Zero UK. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/land-use-policies-for-a-net-zero-uk/

 

 

[1] https://www.iwa.wales/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/iwa-forestry-bilingual.pdf (IWA report)

[2] https://naturalresources.wales/permits-and-permissions/tree-felling-and-other-regulations/environmental-impact-assessment-for-forestry-activity/eia-quick-guide/?lang=en

[3] Including accounting rules: there is a fixed budget allocation to CWG – when an EOI for planting a particular site comes in, say 30 ha, the grant for this area is allocated to the applicant. In subsequent screening of the plans – area might be lost because of restrictions on planting next to streams etc., the grant given relates to the final plantable area and the underspend is returned to Government rather than used on another scheme.

[4] E.g. https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/research/evaluation-of-the-better-woodlands-for-wales-grant-scheme/

[5] This can be interrogated in some detail on the Lle website http://lle.gov.wales/apps/woodlandopportunities/?lang=en#

[6] https://woodlandcarboncode.org.uk/images/PDFs/WWC_V2.0_08March2018.pdf

[7] Permanence describes the issue of ensuring removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is permanent, and not reversed at a future point in time. Woodland projects carry a risk of reversibility and as such safeguards must be in place to minimise that risk and to guarantee replacement or alternative woodland. should a reversal occur.  https://woodlandcarboncode.org.uk/images/PDFs/WWC_V2.0_08March2018.pdf

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Online climate change resources

Posted on February 1, 2011 by Comments are off

The LlyG Climate Change Reader is now online – Click here. New papers on climate change in UK uplands.

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LlyG climate change project

Posted on March 29, 2010 by Comments are off

We’ve just had the news that our bid for a Next Steps project has been successful. This is to help prepare materials on climate change – see the Projects pages for more information.


27-30th October 2014 – EU LIFE programme 2014-2020 – Financing opportunities for environment & climate action, Wales wide

Posted on October 21, 2014 by Comments are off

Natural Resources Wales, supported by Welsh Government, will be holding information sessions on the EU LIFE Programme at the following venues:

Welsh Government, Llandudno Junction, Nanheudwy Room – 27/10/2014  10am- 1pm   

Ladywell House, Newtown, Vyrnwy room – 29/10/2014  10am – 1pm

Temple of Peace, Cardiff, Council Chamber  – 30/10/2014   1pm – 4pm

The LIFE programme is the EU’s €3.46 billion funding instrument for the environment. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation, by co-financing pilot or demonstration projects with European added value.

The ‘Environment’ strand of the new programme covers three priority areas: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information.
 
The ‘Climate Action’ strand covers climate change mitigation; climate change adaptation; and climate governance and information.

The aim of the Information sessions is to help potential applicants find out more about the LIFE 2014-2020 programme. The session will include presentations of previous LIFE projects focusing on how previous applicants designed successful project proposals, the challenges they encountered and how they overcame these.
 
Places at all venues are limited.  If you would like a place, please email rhian.jones@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk with your name and contact details.  Your place will be confirmed by 22nd October 2014.

 

 


Undertake woodland management

Posted on December 11, 2013 by Leave a comment

Undertake woodland management

Woodland management is vital for community woodlands  – it’s planning the future.

As trees are slow growing and long lived then woodland management has to take both a long term and a short term view. Short term is usually five years whilst long term is forty or fifty years. Access – for people and wildlife, sight lines, density of woodland cover, likely rate of tree growth are all considerations in management planning.

Management planning

Planning need not be complex – it is considering how a wood will look in the future and how it will happen.

Licenses and permissions

Working in a woodland may need licenses – for thinning or felling, or legal permissions – such as planning consents for structures.

Safety and skills

Having safe systems of work, and the appropriate skills, is important when using tools and equipment in the wood.

Broadleaved woodland

Broadleaf trees – such as oak or beech– may need particular planning, being more slow growing and long lasting than conifers.

Conifer woodlands

Coniferous trees are often grown in plantation style – close together. Quick growing, they need a planned thinning regime.

Managing for wildlife

To encourage wildlife, take time to observe what already exists and look to encourage different types of habitat.

Managing for timber

For timber, observe what grows well on the site, and think how timber will be accessed for thinning and felling.

Urban Woodlands

Woodland management is essential, both rurally and in urban environments.

Diseases, pest and non-native species

Climate Change

Heritage

Many woodlands come with layers of social, cultural and environmental history to investigate and preserve.


LlyG member blog – reporting back from RFS conference – Resilient Woodlands: Meeting the Challenges

Posted on October 13, 2015 by 1 Comment

This month Anthea Fairy, a member of the Friends of Castle Meadows (pictured above), reports back to the LlyG network from the Royal Forestry Society and Woodland Trust Conference – ‘Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges’. Here she shares her own event notes on what a resilient woodland is, including challenges and recommendations, and concludes with reflection what this means in a community woodlands, both her own and others.

Resilient Woodlands – everybody’s talking about them, but what should you be doing? This was the overarching question for this year’s RFS Conference, which I attended this September in Birmingham.

This branched out into three key questions which the programme of leading speakers sought to address –

• What are the key challenges for woods and woodland owners in the 21st century?
• How can we make woods and wooded landscapes both ecologically and financially resilient?
• What does this mean in terms of policy and practice?

To add to this was my own question as a ‘community woodlander’ – how does this relate to the work community woodlands undertake across Wales?

What is a Resilient Woodland?

Resilience is the capacity of a forest to withstand (absorb) external pressures and return, over time, to its pre-disturbance state.

A resilient forest ecosystem is able to maintain its ‘identity’ in terms of taxonomic composition, structure, ecological functions, and process rates.

Planning for Resilience

When planning for resilience we need to consider the ecological, the economic and social aspects of woodlands and not think of them as separate entities.

Existing woodlands need to be extended and linked which will allow gene flow and species migration.

Trees outside woodlands (TOWS) are important because they are a valuable ecosystem but, due to their isolation they are vulnerable to pests and pathogens.

Planners and woodland managers need to include a more diverse range of species; this will provide a greater capacity for resilience.

A diverse approach

As the climate changes we know there will be more invasions of pathogens from Asia into Europe and that there is the emergence of new hybrid pathogen species. There needs to be a range of resilient approaches and not rely on a single strategy e.g. breeding trees for resistance, diversifying species and aiming for rapid turnover.

Consequences of unmanaged woodland

The consequences of not managing woodlands results in lack of resilience which includes: a decreased biodiversity; decreased woodland infrastructure; a reduction in timber value; but an increase in deer and squirrel populations.

Resilience – the recommendations

The recommendations are: grow the right species of tree i.e. quality hardwoods and understand their nature and properties, understand the market, invest for performance, get professional advice, control deer and grey squirrels practice zero tolerance. Move away from plantations to mixed diverse multi-species forests. Plan for bigger better joined up woodlands.

Pathogen control must be a priority. Foresters and visitors are notoriously bad at biosecurity, and how many of us regularly disinfect our boots when leaving woodlands? Only 7% provide facilities! Generally foresters do not check the provenance of their trees but nurseries are much better at this.

www.sylva.org.uk has some good information. Also www.forestry.gov.uk/biosecurity

The State of Nature survey in 2013 showed that 60% of species were in decline. There has been a decline in woodland bird species. Within vascular plants there is a decline in species richness which has resulted in woodlands becoming blander; however due to the reduction in atmospheric pollution there has been a recovery in lichen populations. It is thought that the patterns are due to a combination of woodland management practices and climate change. With regard to woodlands there has been an increase in fragmentation and increasing coniferisation. There is also the fact that trees are gradually ageing. Major concerns are: increasing grey squirrel populations, the increase of grazing from deer, more shade, more invasive species and un-restored plantations. The key to these problems is-management.

• We need better protection for the integrity of woodlands.
• We need to restore existing woodlands .
• We need to set up stepping stone corridors to link woodlands.

Wildlife Trusts have an important part to play in engaging individuals of all ages; woodlands are valuable in the urban context. It’s likely that the next generation will have a better natural environment than this one. More green spaces and more urban trees.

Research into the effect of raised CO2 and the role of woodlands

To look at the effect of raised carbon dioxide levels and the role of woodlands a sophisticated experiment is being undertaken by the University of Birmingham (Birmingham Institute for Forest Research). It hopes to answer the following questions:

• Does elevated CO2 increase the carbon storage in mature woodlands?
• Do other macro- or micro-nutrients limit the uptake of carbon?
• What aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem structure-and-function alter?
• How can lessons learnt be generalised to other woodlands and forests?

Learning and working together

In order to research into forest resilience we should learn from other sectors such as cities, industry and society and adopt co-operative working. When planning for resilient mixed landscapes, there should be an amalgam of resilient forests and resilient cities

A resilient forest is one that has –
• An increased mix of species
• An increased mix of ages
• An increased mix of diameter classes.

We need to maximise our uses of timber e.g. flooring, construction, furniture, utensils, and sculpture and only use as wood fuel what cannot be used for anything else . We also need to invest in product development.

Squirrel management

There is a large problem with grey squirrel damage to trees in woodlands. Pine martens are carnivores that predate on grey squirrels. Red squirrels and pne martens seem to have evolved together and co-exist. Anecdotal evidence is that where pine martens have recovered & expanded their range in parts of Scotland, grey squirrel numbers have declined. This is encouraging news for woodland owners. In order to assess whether the same relationship exists in other parts of the UK, a pilot study is being undertaken at 5 sites in Wales and one in the Forest of Dean. Selected pine martens from Scotland have been fitted with radio collars and released into the wild in the 6 sites. This initiative is being undertaken by the Vincent Wildlife trust (www.vwt.org.uk).

Continuous Forest Cover

Continuous forest cover (CCF) is a management technique which advocates the abandonment of clear felling. It is the management of continuously productive irregular stands in forests and woodlands that are created by the selection and harvesting of individual trees. CCF stands produce timber on regular cycles and is cost-effective. It also optimises positive ecological and economic outputs. The idea is to adapt the forest to the site by:
• Adopting a holistic approach to forest management.
• Maintaining forest conditions and avoiding clear felling.

“CCF is a simple, dynamic way for forests to be adaptive and resilient and to evolve for change that is yet unknown.” Philippe Morgan (President, Pro Silva)

Climate Change Accord

The signatories of the accord agree on how important its aims are. This is a call for action now to plan for the future. We, as woodlanders, should all be willing to work towards the 7 guiding principles of the Accord.

Offered below are some websites that we as Friends of Castle Meadows have used in our efforts to support the Climate Change Accord.

http://sylva.org.uk/forestryhorizons/environmental-change
www.observatree.org.uk
Tree Alert – Forestry Commission
www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert
www.forestry.gov.uk/pestsanddiseases
www.opalexplorenature.org/surveys

What does this mean for community woodlands?

As a community woodlanderwho attended the conference, I am even more aware of the challenges we face in the twenty-first century. We, as groups, can help by monitoring and by taking part in Observatree and Tree Alert. Since returning from the conference I have distributed ‘Ashtags’ (fully recyclable tagging pack to mark ash trees to help monitor and protect the species from ash dieback) to community members.

We are raising awareness of the importance of the issues raised at the conference by explaining to individuals who use the wood why we are doing what we are doing. I understand how important it is to plan for a woodland which has greater biodiversity as this will help build resilience against incidents which threaten to destroy fragile habitats. I see how important it is to link woodlands even if this can only be achieved by practices as simple as encouraging ‘stepping stones’ (i.e.trees in gardens and public places).

The conference highlighted how important it is that woodland groups network so that they can exchange ideas and grow experience and knowledge.

 

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