Our trees and forests provide many benefits
Column by Gareth Davies, MP for Grantham.
I am very proud to have many fantastic organisations based in our area, but one in particular is engaged in work that will be vital to future generations.
The Woodland Trust is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity and we are lucky to have them headquartered in Grantham.
I met them recently for a walk around Londonthorpe Wood to discuss their work.
Currently only 13 per cent of the UK is forested; this puts us below many other countries in Europe.
The Woodland Trust is working to change this with an ambition to plant 55 million trees by 2025. Their work relies not only on the many staff in Grantham but hundreds of thousands of members and volunteers who spend their time protecting our forests across the country.
In 2018, volunteers donated 275,000 hours for this effort.
While it may not be immediately obvious beyond natural beauty, there are so many benefits our forests and trees provide. In fact, Europe Economics and The Woodland Trust found in a recent report that our nation’s forests provide us with over £270bn in benefits. Benefits that include helping to tackle flooding by capturing rainwater, improving water quality, improving air quality, and even apparently reducing crime.
It is perhaps no surprise therefore that economists estimate that an area with 20 per cent tree cover will see house prices increase by as much a seven per cent.
There are two benefits though that I want to especially highlight.
Firstly, as they grow, trees naturally absorb the CO2 from the atmosphere that creates global warming. The Forestry Commission estimates that for every acre, trees absorb 272 tonnes of CO2. Therefore, if we are to make our target of being a net zero country by 2050, we must vastly accelerate tree planting as way of helping to reduce carbon emissions nationally, while simultaneously improving the quality of the air we breathe locally here in Lincolnshire.
Secondly, during the pandemic we have been reminded of the critical recreational value of our forests, be it cycling or walking with our friends and family.
Even before the coronavirus, there were roughly 490 million visits to woodland every year and this has been shown time again to be a recreational activity that brings significant improvements to personal wellbeing both in terms of exercise but also mental health.
They say the meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
Well let’s get on with planting those seeds.