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UK woodland at crisis point

UK woodland at crisis point 14 April 2021

Felling, disease, pollution, and climate change pushing UK woodland to crisis point

By Madeleine Cuff, The i newspaper

The UK’s native woodlands are in crisis, according to the Woodland Trust, facing a “barrage” of threats that risk pushing climate targets out of reach and ecosystems to the point of collapse.  

Although tree cover is increasing across the country, most of the new saplings are non–native trees, while native woodlands with trees such as oak, beech, ash and elm are in decline. Just seven per cent of the UK’s native woodland is in good condition, according to the first–of–its–kind study.

Native trees are under attack from pests, diseases, climate change and air pollution, according to the report, while new developments such as HS2 are shrinking and fragmenting the remaining habitat.  

This is not just damaging trees. Woodland birds such as the willow tit and lesser spotted woodpecker, and flowering plants like Lily of the Valley, are declining fast, the Trust said.  

Urgent action is needed to reverse the decline, particularly if the UK is to rely on tree cover to support its net zero climate goal, said Abi Bunker, director of conservation and external affairs for Woodland Trust.  

“The warning signs in this report are loud and clear. If we don’t tackle the threats facing our woods and trees, we will severely damage the UK’s ability to address the climate and nature crises. Our wildlife havens are suffering, and we are storing up problems for future generations.” 

The Government has promised to plant millions more trees to boost the UK’s stock of carbon sinks. But “not nearly enough” is being done to protect and expand native woodlands or reverse declines in their condition, the Woodland Trust said. 

Read the full story here.