Drought-resistant forests to be planted in £100 million scheme

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A recently planted tree in a park - Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg
A recently planted tree in a park - Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg

Drought-resistant forests are to be planted to tackle climate change in a £100 million government project.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced plans on Friday to expand woodland across England by 2,300 hectares this year, the equivalent of about 3,220 football pitches.

It is hoped the expansion will see 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide absorbed by 2050.

Defra said the planting would be focused on areas with the lowest woodland cover, and would create “larger, well-designed and more diverse woodlands”.

Species-rich woodlands are more resilient to climate change, because different types of trees will have different tolerance to heat and drought.

They are also better at weathering hazards such as wildfires and storms than the monoculture forests used for timber, and can help reduce flooding by slowing the flow of water through at-risk landscapes.

England’s 13 community forests – regeneration projects around some of the largest towns and cities set up over the past 30 years – are set to benefit from the funding.

Among them are the Humber and Mersey Forests, the Northern Forest and Great Northumberland Forest.

Defra said the funding would give more people greater access to nature and help improve health and wellbeing, as well as creating jobs within the forestry and environmental sectors.

The funding for the scheme will come from the £750 million Nature for Climate Fund, which was announced at the end of 2020.

About £675 million of the fund has been allocated to the England Trees Action Plan, which aims to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament as part of the Government’s net zero strategy.

Defra pegged the carbon sequestration value of the newly announced planting at £100 million over the next 30 years.

Lord Zac Goldsmith, forestry minister, said: “Our economies, livelihoods and wellbeing all rely on nature.

“As well as tackling the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, this significant funding will create diverse treescapes across the country and improve the health and wellbeing of local communities by giving them more opportunities to enjoy nature on their doorstep.”

Sir William Worsley, chairman of the Forestry Commission, said: “The social, environmental and economic benefits of being in woodlands are well-documented, helping local communities to be happier, healthier and more pleasant places to live.

“It is a personal mission of mine to make sure as many people as possible get to experience these benefits.

He added: “This funding will ensure we plant trees in areas close to where people live, as well as providing job opportunities in new woodland creation through planting, establishing and managing trees.”

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