Global warming is happening at a faster rate than ever. Our polar ice caps are melting and our forests are burning.
We’re in a climate emergency and it’s threatening our planet. According to experts, we're on track for an increase of between 3°C and 4°C by 2100. And these are only global average temperatures. At the poles and over land (where people live), the increase may be higher – possibly even double.
Our most powerful weapon: trees
Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. Like great carbon sinks, woods and forests absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries. They do this through photosynthesis.
The entire woodland ecosystem plays a huge role in locking up carbon, including the living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and its associated vegetation.
And trees do more than just capture carbon. They also fight the cruel effects of a changing climate. They can help:
Reduce city temperatures
Keep soil nutrient-rich
carbon per hectare
That's how much a young wood with mixed native species can lock up in trees, roots and soil.
And it's not just new woodland. Carbon accumulation continues in woodland that's centuries old. Old-growth forests are actually carbon sinks, contrary to the long-standing view that they are carbon neutral.
Woods are our allies in the fight against a changing climate, yet just 13% of the UK’s land area is covered by trees (compared with an EU average of 37%).
The bottom line is, we need more trees and we need to protect the ones we already have.
That's how many hectares of additional woodland that's needed to help reach net zero carbon
We need to start planting
That sounds like a lot of trees, 1.5 million hectares is around the same land area as Yorkshire. But, there’s plenty of space for trees. In fact, scientists have already mapped areas that could be planted across Europe, all of which wouldn’t impact agriculture or urban areas.
We can also get trees in the ground while retaining unique non-woodland habitats. Keeping the landscape diverse is essential for resilience. There are also habitats that store even more carbon than woods, such as peat bogs, that are also in need of restoration.
Planting the right tree in the right place is vital. We plant native trees where they will thrive. By planting native, we make woods that are more genetically diverse and therefore more resilient against pests, diseases and the effects of climate change.