Planting trees is a story of the good, the bad and the perfect.

The Wonderful Ash Tree on Peak Hill now alas now lost to Ash-Dieback Photo by Charles Sinclair
The Wonderful Ash Tree on Peak Hill now alas now lost to Ash-Dieback Photo by Charles Sinclair

There are so many beautiful trees from all over the world planted in gardens and parks. Some writers dismiss these exotic trees as peripheral to biodiversity. It is true these exotic trees have a marginal role in the complex web of life of our native plants and animals. But these are the trees that so many of us see every day and that we love and grieve for when wrecked by storms. They make us aware of the worldwide life of the planet. We should plant a wide variety of exotic trees in our cultivated spaces.

But planting the wrong tree in the wrong place is bad. The Flow Country in Scotland is blanket bog formed over 10,000 years with peat 10m deep. In the 1970s commercial conifers were planted draining the bog and destroying the peat. But now it is realised that the surviving bog contains three times more carbon than all the trees in Britain. We must be careful that trees are planted in suitable land and do not destroy the life of special places like bog and meadow.

If you would be perfect, go out and plant a woodland. Woodlands are trees but much more than trees. To put a complicated story into a few words, trees use carbon dioxide and sunshine to make leaves. Insects eat the leaves, birds and animals eat the insects, dead leaves and creatures fall to the ground and are consumed by fungi and bacteria to make living soil that feeds the trees and helps seeds grow that become new trees using carbon dioxide and sunshine to make leaves and so on and on.  It will take 30 years for new trees to develop into a working woodland but 400 years before the full richness of life has developed. This is ancient woodland, about 7% of Britain is covered by native woodland, only 3% is covered by ancient woodland. Carbon is stored in the wood of the trees, in the soil and in the bodies of all the creatures living in the woodland. We need more woodland in Britain. 

Plant woodland, store carbon, restore nature. We can save the world IF, if, if, -. 

By Steve Jones

Look out in two weeks’ time for Ed Dolphins Herald article on the hidden ancient woodland in the Sid Valley.

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