Mass tree-planting set for UK woodlands the size of '3,220 football pitches'

New forests expected to absorb 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050

Woodlands that house a variety of species are better equipped to withstand climate change. PA
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Woodland across England is set to grow by 2,300 hectares this year, the equivalent of about 3,220 football pitches, under new government plans.

The plan from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will see 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide absorbed by 2050.

Defra said the project would create “larger, well-designed and more diverse woodlands” and that planting would focus on areas with the lowest tree cover.

Species-rich woodlands are more resilient to climate change, because different types of trees have varying tolerance to heat and drought.

They are also better at weathering hazards such as wildfires and storms than monoculture forests used for timber, and can help reduce flooding by slowing the flow of water through landscapes at risk.

England’s 13 community forests, regeneration projects around some of the largest towns and cities set up over the past 30 years are all set to benefit from the funding.

Among them are the Humber, Mersey, Northern and Great Northumberland forests.

Defra said the funding would give more people greater access to nature and help improve health and well-being, as well as creating jobs within the forestry and environmental sectors.

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Funding will come from the £750 million ($913m) Nature for Climate Fund, which was announced at the end of 2020.

About £675m of the fund has been allocated to the England Trees Action Plan, which aims to treble tree-planting rates by the end of this Parliament as part of the government’s net-zero strategy.

Defra pegged the carbon sequestration value of the newly announced planting at £100m over the next 30 years.

“Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all rely on nature," said Forestry Minister, Lord Zac Goldsmith.

“As well as tackling the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, this significant funding will create diverse treescapes across the country and improve the health and well-being of local communities by giving them more opportunities to enjoy nature on their doorstep.”

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“The social, environmental and economic benefits of being in woodlands are well-documented, helping local communities to be happier, healthier and more pleasant places to live," said Sir William Worsley, Forestry Commission chairman.

“It is a personal mission of mine to make sure as many people as possible get to experience these benefits.

“This funding will ensure we plant trees in areas close to where people live, as well as providing job opportunities in new woodland creation through planting, establishing and managing trees."

Updated: August 04, 2022, 11:01 PM