Trees are very much in the news at the moment. National Tree Week is running until 1 December this year and is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration. The Tree Council and Woodland Trust are hoping to plant a million trees across the UK during this event, with the support of individuals, schools and community groups. This should provide a welcome boost to the UK’s tree numbers and community orchards.
Many people care about trees because they make our communities more beautiful and improve our well-being. Trees also support wildlife and help develop habitats with rich biodiversity. They can preserve the soil, improve air quality and provide food and welcome shade. By taking in carbon dioxide and storing the carbon as wood, they offer perhaps the most viable method of reducing the concentration of the main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. For this reason the Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the UK should aim to plant at least 1.5 billion new trees by 2050.
Apart from planting new trees it’s also important that we properly maintain our existing tree stock. Cambridge is situated in one of the driest parts of the country and we are reliant on a wet winter to recharge groundwater aquifers. Tree varieties with shallow roots such as Beech and all newly planted trees will be damaged if subjected to extensive periods of drought. New developments will place further strains on our currently creaking water supply. Shouldn’t further housing growth be contingent on, among other measures, being able to demonstrate that they will not overstretch our precious water resources?
Tree diseases also threaten our existing tree stock, with the Woodland Trust predicting that Ash Dieback will kill 95% of the UK’s ash trees. Since Ash is the most common tree across Cambridge, this disease in going to have a massive impact on our city’s treescape. Fortunately the City Council has some talented and dedicated tree and biodiversity officers who are already planning how best to tackle this particular scourge.
There are not many tracts of land owned by the City Council that would be suitable for large-scale tree planting without impacting on their existing recreational and communal uses. One spot that does seem suitable is located in Chesterton between the Vie Apartments and the River Cam, not far from the existing Logan’s Meadow nature reserve. Carbon Neutral Cambridge is working on a proposal to transform this neglected piece of land into a small woodland park. We think it could be reconfigured into an extended nature reserve designed to increase biodiversity, sequester carbon and provide a much improved recreational resource. Any such proposed land use change would require demonstrable community support. So if you know this area, or would like to become involved in some way, we would love to hear from you.
This article by Tony Eva was first published in the Cambridge Independent on December 2019.