Natural regeneration could create a million acres of woodland, campaigners say


ore than a million acres of woodland could be created in England by letting existing woods regenerate and spread, campaigners have said.

Mapping for Friends of the Earth and Rewilding Britain showed allowing existing woods to self-seed by 150 metres on all sides, excluding important habitats, nature reserves and productive farmland, would hugely boost woodland.

The environmental groups said the findings bolstered calls for the Government to pay more attention to natural regeneration of woods to confront the nature and climate crises, alongside planting more trees.

Young woodland (Emily Beament/PA)

Meanwhile the Woodland Trust has warned the UK risks failing to meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 unless more trees are planted, woodland is restored and the condition of woods are improved.

The charity is launching the Big Climate Fightback campaign, sending more than 700,000 free native saplings to schools and communities to kickstart an autumn tree planting programme, with 680,000 more in the spring.

The calls to boost woodland come ahead of the international Cop26 summit, where countries are under pressure to increase action to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming.

The UK Government as host of the talks, has made trees, forests and natural solutions to climate change one of the key areas to focus on.

Natural regeneration is the process where trees self-seed, through wind-blown dispersal or by animals burying nuts which then germinate, but which can be disrupted by grazing animals.

The Government has announced it will provide grants for natural regeneration but Friends of the Earth and Rewilding Britain say the funding is only for sites within 75 metres of a seed source such as a wood.

Research suggests trees can naturally regenerate up to 150 metres from a seed source, the green groups say, and they are calling for the Government to raise the grant threshold and boost natural regeneration.

Natural regeneration has a huge role to play in helping meet woodland creation goals

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