The area of England’s woodlands could be doubled — to cover a 20 per cent of the county — without intruding on key wildlife habitats or farmland, a study found.
Researchers from Friends of the Earth and cartography consultancy Terra Sulis have compiled a map showing existing and potential woodland cover across England.
The project — supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery — shows that woodlands could be expanded also without impinging on peat bogs or protected nature sites.
Other land avoided in the calculations included pasture land that has not been ploughed for a number of years — and could thus be home to diverse plant life.
Most of the potential new woods — which would absorb carbon and help tackle climate change, the Friends of the Earth said — would be on low grade pasture land.
Were the proposed woods to be grown, England would return to level of coverage not seen since before the Domesday Book of 1086 — Britain’s first ‘public record’ — at which point 15 per cent of the land was forested.
Britain was once covered with woodlands from shore-to-shore — either as a giant forest, or as a mosaic of grass- and woodlands, experts think — following the natural recovery from the last glacial period 12,000 years ago.
However, the impact of Neolithic and later peoples meant that, by around 2,000 BC, half of this had been lost.
Experts from Friends of the Earth and cartography consultancy Terra Sulis have compiled a map showing existing (left) and potential (right) woodland cover (highlighted in yellow) across England. The project — supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery — shows that woodlands could be expanded also without impinging on peat bogs or protected nature sites
According to the Friends of the Earth, the map revels that it is crucial that the Government provides support and funding to enable farmers and local authorities to plant more trees across the country.
Dozens of local authority areas have the potential to at least double their woodland cover, while some 20 council areas have the potential to quadruple their wooded areas and 34 could at least triple the same.
Among the councils with the most opportunity to increase their woodland cover are Northumberland — with 77,000 hectares (190,000 acres) of potential new woodland — and Cornwall, which could add some 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres).
Shropshire has 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) it could plant, and Eden District has 43,000 hectares (106,000 acres), the map suggested.
The team also did not include the potential for trees in urban areas — such as those that line streets and those planted in parks and gardens — which would further add to England’s greenery, the environmental group added.
The map launched ahead of ‘National Tree Week’, which commences on November 30. The Friends of the Earth is encouraging people to use the map to look up the potential for new woods in their local areas — and lobby their councils accordingly.
The organisation is also calling for local councils to commit to boosting woodland cover and a national target to be included in the England Tree Strategy, which is expected to be published this winter.
‘We’re calling on Forestry minister Zac Goldsmith to mark next week’s National Tree Week by setting an ambitious target to boost tree cover in England,’ said Friends of the Earth tree campaigner Danny Gross.
‘Growing more trees would help us fight climate breakdown while enabling more people to access nature in their local area.’
‘We need more councils to step up and grow more trees but it’s time that ministers in Westminster offer more funding for climate action at a local level.’
‘This mapping research shows the game-changing potential of local climate action,’ agreed People’s Postcode Lottery charities head Laura Chow.
‘Trees are a highly valuable natural solution to address the climate crisis so I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting research into woodland creation and tree planting in communities across the country.’
According to the Friends of the Earth, the map revels that it is crucial that the Government provides support and funding to enable farmers and local authorities to plant more trees across the country. Pictured, the Eastern Moors in Derbyshire, where conservationists have been working to re-wild the landscape by planting new woodlands
‘Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025,’ a DEFRA spokesperson said in a statement.
‘We have already consulted on our England Tree Strategy and announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund.
These, they added,’ will be vital tools in ensuring we work closely with communities and landowners to accelerate tree planting and meet this ambitious target.’
The full findings of the report were published on the Climate Action website.