UK woodlands are in crisis – here's how you can help

Lisa Walden
·4-min read
Photo credit: fotoVoyager - Getty Images
Photo credit: fotoVoyager - Getty Images

UK woodlands are in crisis due to a "barrage" of threats including imported diseases, nitrogen pollution, invasive plants and direct loss to development, a new report has found.

Research conducted by The Woodland Trust found that not nearly enough is being done to plant individual trees, create resilient native woodlands, and protect and restore existing woods. In fact, they discovered that just 7% of the country's native woodland is in good ecological condition.

While woodland cover has more than doubled in the last 100 years, the wildlife within it is rapidly decreasing. If these threats aren't tackled soon, the UK's ability to address climate and nature crises will be severely damaged.

"Wildlife is going down - woodland birds, woodland butterflies, woodland plants are all going in the wrong direction for woodlands as a whole," Chris Reid, lead author of the report, told BBC News. "This is down to factors such as pollution, invasive species, deer browsing and fragmentation - woods chopped up into small parcels. All of these need to be tackled."

Photo credit: Dimitar Lazarov - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dimitar Lazarov - Getty Images

The report also found that species such as dead wood beetles, lily of the valley and the willow tit were in steep decline, as well as woodland birds, butterflies and plants overall.

"The warning signs in this report are loud and clear," Abi Bunker, director of conservation and external affairs at the Woodland Trust, adds. "If we don't tackle the threats facing our woods and trees, we will severely damage the UK's ability to address the climate and nature crises."

Photo credit: MarkBridger - Getty Images
Photo credit: MarkBridger - Getty Images

Woods and trees are vital for a healthy, happy society. As well as locking up carbon, they reduce pollution and flooding, boost our wellbeing, and support wildlife numbers, too. A source of wonder and delight, it's never been more vital to stand up for our local trees.

What can we do to help?

The Woodland Trusts' State of the UK's Woods and Trees 2021 report provides clear evidence that there is an urgent need to act now in all corners of the UK. Take a look at some of the things we can all do below:

1. Call for nature's recovery: A great way to help is to join thousands of others and sign the petition to ask the UK government for a change to the Environment Bill to reverse the loss of nature by 2030. For more information about how to get involved, head over to their website.

2. Expand woodland and tree cover: The report says: "We need to at least quadruple the current rate of woodland creation and increase the proportion that comprises native tree and shrub species to help minimise the pace and level of climate change, adapt to its unavoidable impacts and give nature a fighting chance of recovery." To help, why not get involved with a local planting scheme or help plant trees in your local area?

3. Stand up for the woods and trees in Scotland: With the Scottish Parliament elections taking place in May, candidates are being urged to tackle the nature and climate crisis by making native trees and woods a priority. See here for more information.

4. Take action for trees and woods in Wales: Do you live in Wales? With the Welsh elections taking place in May, now is the ideal time to ask candidates to prioritise woods and trees for a greener, brighter future.

5. Prevent new threats becoming a problem: Many woodland threats are compounded by climate change impacts. It's important we take action to avoid or remove threats before they become a problem. Some of the ways you can do this include radically reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, improve woodland resilience and increase woodland connectivity across landscapes (more hedges, trees outside woods and expanding woods).

6. Donate: Every little really does help when it comes to protecting our woodland areas. With your support, the Woodland Trust can help protect our woods and tress for generations to come. Here's how you can donate.

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