LlyG members blog – Ground breaking urban tree research shared at urban community woodland Beaufort

Posted on April 23, 2015 by

Urban tree populations and their value has been under scrutiny recently with new and ground breaking research in Wales.

This month Dafydd Fryer, Urban Forest Architect at Natural Resources Wales (NRW), gives an overview of this important research, relating findings to his March visit to Beaufort Hill and Ponds Woodlands community woodland, as part of the National Annual Gathering of Community Woodlands in Wales.

Two important studies were undertaken by NRW last year to address knowledge gaps in both understanding the extent of Welsh urban tree populations and their value to society.

The findings from these studies is intended to help local authorities better understand, manage and plan their urban forests, hopefully with a view to setting realistic canopy cover goals over time.


Report 1 – ‘Tree cover in Wales’ towns and cities’

The first of its kind in the world, this report captures where and how much tree canopy cover existed within 220 urban areas, looking at both 2006 and 20009 aerial photography.

Report 2 – ‘i-Tree Eco Wrexham’

This Wales’ pilot study quantifies ecosystem services that urban trees throughout the County Borough provide.


Trees are powerful and versatile natural assets

The finding from these studies made it clear that trees are powerful assets, creating attractive towns with economic spin-offs, health and well-being benefits as well as countering the extremes of climate change.

The challenge is to raise awareness of this across national and local government, built environment professionals, community groups such as Llais y Goedwig members, and the public.

Trees and green infrastructure often offer cost-effective and sustainable solutions to many of the issues facing urban society today.

The i-Tree Eco Wrexham study highlights that the Borough’s existing 17% urban tree cover annually sequesters carbon, intercepts rainfall and removes air pollution to a value of £1.2 million. The 66k tonnes of carbon stored over the life of these trees are valued at £14 million.

This year, completion of further reports with the Bridgend and Swansea / Cwm Tawe i-Tree Eco studies will again no doubt demonstrate the invaluable level of ecosystem services that urban trees provide.


Wales’ urban canopy cover findings

With a national average of 16.8% urban canopy cover across towns varies greatly.

Distribution of tree cover across different land-uses, town wards (especially focussing on less-advantages areas) and where potential for planting exists are all explored in the studies. Most alarming is the loss of 11,000 large >12m dia. trees across Wales in the space of three years as well as 55 out of 220 of Wales’ urban areas showing a canopy reduction.

My recent invitation to the Llais y Goedwig’s visit to Beaufort Hill and Ponds Woodlands was an opportunity to celebrate both Blaenau Gwent County Borough (and Merthyr) topping the canopy charts on 22.5%!

Landscape context was one of the factors influencing canopy – coastal towns tending to be low (6% in Rhyl and Porthcawl) contrasting with higher cover in the Valleys, e.g. Treharris on 32%. Ebbw Vale itself, which includes Beaufort, is a fine example of high cover where a combination of ‘untouched’ steep-sided wooded slopes, river and new road corridors, reclaimed or naturally re-generated post-industrial land have provided sites for tree cover to establish.

Impressive examples of the latter exist in the area, e.g. the 70s WDA landscaping of the Rassau Industrial Estate, the 1992 Garden Festival site and this excellent 10 year old community woodland project at Beaufort.

The study differentiates between woodlands (>0.5ha) and ‘amenity’ trees (individuals and groups of trees that arguably feature more in people’s life in terms of where they live, work, shop and play). Woodlands, whilst recognised as being hugely valuable assets, have often been flagged up as being less connected to people’s everyday lives due to their inaccessible, poorly managed and uninviting state. Fortunately many examples counter this perception and what a brilliant example Beaufort proved to be for our visit; a brilliant main entrance design plus, a total of 8 entrances plus a series of well laid-out and interconnecting paths.

For more information visit NRW’S tree page here


Beaufort Community woodland site visit 2

Urban tree cover in action at Beaufort Community Woodland








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