“Tree planting is important, but it must not destroy much rarer, valuable habitats”

18feb20 tweet by Wild Lakeland @WildLakeland
“Tree planting is important, but it must not destroy much rarer, valuable habitats. This wildflower-rich grassland in Cumbria has been planted without thought to the Butterfly Orchids, Betony, Scabious, Restharrow, Harebell and assoc’d biodiversity. Please RT to raise awareness!” https://twitter.com/WildLakeland/status/1229827627281715213
I strongly recommend anyone interested in tree-planting reads the twitter thread I have linked to. Over the decades I have encountered many depressing examples of trees being planted in the wrong place, and destroying species rich habitat. Please ask whoever is organizing tree-planting: Has an ecologist or botanist assessed this site in the spring-summer? Will species of value be lost if we plant here?

Here is part of the thread, and links to helpful articles – including a sequel to this in the Times:

Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat 1
Update: This problem is being resolved, and has reached The Times:
20feb20 Nestlé’s trees pulled up to save flowers 

Alex Morss @morss_alex Replying to @WildLakeland @herdyshepherd1 and 9 others
Species rich site loss was among my many concerns when I wrote this [piece in the Independent]. Sadly I fear there will undoubtedly be many more losses from well meaning but poorly executed tree planting.
21feb20 sequel: Miles King has now done a blog post on this:

Chronicle of a Grassland Saved

From which I will quote this:
“This incident highlights something which I was writing about in  the General Election campaign – you remember, the one with the tree planting auction.  There is very real risk now that with such a large tree planting target now being cemented in to Government policy and possibly legislation, organisations, such as WT, will be heading out with generous incentives for landowners to plant up every conceivable piece of land. And naturally, the landowners will be looking at their land which is the least productive in agricultural terms – you know, those awkward bits where you can’t get machinery on, the steep slopes, the wet corners. The steep slopes, supporting perhaps the last vestiges of wildlife-rich grassland. I can take you to any number of places where steep slopes of chalk downland have been lost to tree planting in Dorset, over a number of decades. And that has been replicated across the country. But we haven’t seen anything like the scale of tree planting being planned now, for a very long time. …”

And BBCR4 Farming Today (5mins through:) on 21feb20 But the Woodland Trust spokesperson downplayed the case.

Planting trees to tackle climate change might feel nice, but it could be doing more harm than good

In the race to capture carbon, we are mass planting trees at the expense of conservation and protecting biodiversity Alex Morss @morss_alex Monday 18 November 2019

We face an epidemic of the wrong sort of tree hugging. With climate crisis awareness now at its peak almost every big party politician, land owner and charity seems to be racing to embrace tree planting to capture carbon. Are we seeing ecological salvation all packaged up in those therapeutically earthy smelling root balls? Not if the effort is misguided.

In the wise words of the late, great author Oliver Rackham, in 1986: “Tree planting is not synonymous with conservation; it is an admission that conservation has failed.”

More photos from @WildLakeland tweets:

Before:

Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat 2a

After:
(note that fencing off from any grazing can cause loss of flowers by rank grass growth, whereas overgrazing or grazing at wrong time of year is also detrimental)

Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat 2b

Chalk grassland destruction:

Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat on chalk

 

Cumbria’s James Rebanks comments:

Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat Rebanks

 

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Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat gov

Guidance [gov.uk]

Assess environmental impact before you create new woodland

Find out if you need an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before you create new woodland.

 

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Twitter in action!      – amazing:

Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat bigthread

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Tree-planting destroying species rich habitat checks

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A comment I put on Facebook introducing this blogpost:

I hope anyone who is interested in tree-planting for carbon sequestration and creating woodland should read the links and twitter thread (or twitter-tree – as the thread branches), as well as the articles I have linked to here:

https://henryadamsblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/tree-planting-is-important-but-it-must-not-destroy-much-rarer-valuable-habitats/

OK the main culprits are much less likely to be people like … but may be the landowners choosing the last remnants of land on their farms that have escaped intensification, such as steep banks and mires or else companies who want to green or greenwash their PR image by tree-panting so as to “offset” their environmental damage elsewhere
but we must ensure that both ecological and climate crisis are simultaneously considered.

Over many decades I have seen species rich habitats destroyed often unawares by tree-planting in the wrong place as shown here. In winter the species richness is often less obvious.

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