The Importance of Trees for Climate Action and the Ecological Emergency

What is the climate emergency?  

Information from the Woodland Trust; NASA; Carbon Literacy Training from SOS

The climate emergency is being caused by human activity, such as burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas) to produce energy to meet our needs.  Over time this way of producing energy has caused increasing levels of carbon dioxide to remain in the Earth’s atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so called because it traps the Sun’s heat and causes the Earth to get hotter. 

Since the 1950’s these changes to the Earth’s atmosphere and climate have accelerated. According to NASA by 2020 there were 412 parts of carbon dioxide per million in the Earth’s atmosphere. This is significantly more than at any other time in the past 800,000 years. (see NASA chart) and it is continuing to rise. There has already been a 1°C increase in the global temperature.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that global temperatures must not go above 1.5°C if we are to avoid the ecological collapse of our planet.  However, according to experts, we are currently on track for an increase of 3 – 4°C by 2100 due to our failure to stop burning fossil fuels.

How can trees help with the climate emergency? 

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere and store it and they also move carbon into the soil. Therefore planting native trees in the right location and conditions to enable them to thrive can create carbon sinks which  lock up and store carbon for centuries.  In urban areas trees can also absorb pollution and reduce the heat that can spike in built up cities and towns.  

Trees are also critical to address the ecological emergency we face.  In the UK, we are one of the most nature and tree depleted countries in the world.  According to the Woodland Trust just 13% of the UK’s land area is covered by trees (compared with an EU average of 37%).  Trees are essential to many ecosystems and provide rich habitats for other plants, birds, insects and mammals.  They can help prevent flooding by absorbing water which is increasingly essential as we see more extreme weather events.  Their roots protect against soil erosion and can prevent our soils from washing away.

So what can we do? 

According to Trees For Shropshire we need to plant 1.5 billion trees in the UK to make a difference to our environment. This equates to about 23 trees per person.  So here are some tips on how to plant some trees yourself or support another group that is already planting trees. 

Information from Matt Biggs on Gardeners’ Question Time on 31/12/21 and the Sustainable Telford and Wrekin Council website

Where to get your trees:

  • Look out for our Tree Seedling Giveaways via our website and social media, where we give away native tree seedlings and saplings locally sourced in Shropshire 
  • During National Tree Week you can order native trees to plant in your gardens and community spaces via Telford and Wrekin Council’s Trees4TW project

Where to plant your trees:

  • Choose a site carefully, bearing in mind the space available and the eventual size of the tree
  • Give Silver Birch and Crab Apple trees a 3m buffer between other trees in your garden
  • Give Oak and Beech a 5m buffer. 
  • Don’t plant under electrical cables

How to plant your trees:

  • Dig a square hole either as deep as the depth of a spade or as deep as the root ball of the tree and stack the soil nearby.
  • Soak the roots in a bucket of water before placing the tree in the hole.  Try to make it upright, but it doesn’t have to be exact. Don’t plant too deeply: plant up to the junction between where the roots finish and the trunk starts.
  • Put the soil you removed from the hole back in layers around the tree and then firm it with your hands or heel.  
  • Once the soil is levelled add a 10cm layer of organic matter to the whole area to reduce evaporation and keep the area free of grass.

How to care for your trees:

  • During the first year water the tree regularly.
  • There is no need to feed the tree in the first year.
  • Keep the area under the tree weed free so weeds don’t compete with the tree

How you can help trees in Telford and Wrekin: 

  • Join an event near you during National Tree Week: the UK’s largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season (November to March each year).
  • Join one of the local groups who manage the Telford and Wrekin nature reserves  or Severn Gorge Countryside Trust who carry out hedge planting and tree planting. 
  • Check out The Small Woods Association in Coalbrookdale who provide advice and training on woodland management skills.
  • Trees for Shropshire is a not for profit organisation planting trees and hedges and promoting biodiversity in our county.  You can sponsor a tree.
  • CPRE Shropshire is a charity which promotes environmentally sustainable use of land and resources in Shropshire’s landscape.  You can join one of their hedge planting days.

How you can help trees around the UK:

  • The Woodland Trust is a charity which protects our ancient woodlands and is aiming to plant  50 million trees in the UK over the next five years to help put the UK on track to meet its carbon net-zero target.
  • Fellowship of the Trees is a grassroots not-for-profit organisation aimed at regenerating land, rewilding, protecting our planet and building conscious communities. 
  • Trees for life is a project started by one man 30 years ago to restore the Caledonian Forest which once covered much of the Scottish Highlands and enable the forest to naturally regenerate and provide space for wildlife to flourish and communities to thrive.

Further afield:

  • TreeSisters is a UK registered charity that supports tropical forest restoration across 12 locations in Brazil, Borneo, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, Nepal and West Papua.  TreeSisters has so far planted over 22 million trees and encourages feminine leadership to inspire personal and collective action on behalf of the trees.
  • One Tree Planted is a US based charity with reforestation projects around the world including in the UK. Since 2014 they have planted 40 million trees in 43 countries. They plant 1 tree for each $1 donated.
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