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

Posted on December 4, 2015 by

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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