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Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place

The simple message of ‘planting a tree’ hides a number of critical points of importance. For example, we shouldn’t just be planting trees. We need to restore our countryside and landscapes at dramatic scale if we are to avert the existential threat that climate change poses. 

And we should be creating fully functioning woodlands, not simply planting trees. A group of trees does not make a woodland and research has shown that without significant direct intervention by underplanting with woodland ground flora and shrubs, a functioning woodland takes a very long time to develop. 

Nor should we be planting trees on blanket bog and other important habitats in the uplands or on upland grasslands that provide nesting habitat for the iconic Curlew – the largest wader in the world for which the UK holds a significant proportion of the global population. 

There is a rush to lock up carbon to deliver net zero emission targets and this is leading to large tracts of northern England and Scotland to be planted up with fast-growing conifers – an anathema to biodiversity.

Assessments to determine the location and type of woodlands created for carbon storage must ensure that the right tree is planted in the right place. That would normally be broadleaved species with an associated characteristic ground flora. And of course, one shouldn’t be harvesting the timber unless it is used for building and construction where the carbon would remain locked up.  So there are lots of considerations when planting a tree.

About the author

David Hill