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Stackyard News Jan 06

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    Woodland managers plan for climate change


As the threat of climate change becomes a reality, new advice published today advises woodland owners and managers to start taking steps now, to protect our woods and forests for future generations.

The publication, 'Living with climate change and its effect on trees and woodland in the East of England', has been produced by the Forestry Commission, together with the Climate Change group of the East of England Sustainable Development Round Table. It offers practical guidance to help plan ahead for the effects of climate change, both in terms of minimising its adverse impacts and taking advantage of potential biodiversity opportunities created by a warmer climate.

Forestry Minister Jim Knight praised the new guidance, saying:

“We must acknowledge that climate change is happening, and that we are already seeing its effects. We cannot view climate change as just another pressure threatening our landscapes - we need to act now to ensure we can adapt to climate change as much as possible.”

“I applaud the Forestry Commission and East of England Sustainable Development Round Table for working together to produce this important and timely publication. I encourage everyone involved in landscape conservation around the country, from local councils to forest managers and private landowners to look at it very closely. Its advice and guidance will be beneficial to everyone.

“I hope this work will inspire responsible organisations and individuals nationwide to act now to produce and implement similar region-specific plans, as we all learn to live with the effects of climate change.”

As well as precautionary and preventative measures, the guidance illustrates practical ways in which trees and woods can reduce some of the negative effects of climate change.

Guidance is applicable to both urban and rural areas. For example, urban and rural planners are encouraged to consider woodland planting early in any developments, as mature trees can reduce air pollution. Trees and woodland in towns and cities can additionally provide cooling and shade, all of which enhances local environmental quality. It will become increasingly important to monitor trees on clay soils in towns, because their high take-up of water during warmer periods can lead to subsidence and increased insurance claims.

As flood risk management increasingly becomes an issue, woodland can be planted as a stabilising influence on river banks and on rivers' peak flows, and shelter belts of trees can reduce soil erosion caused by drought and wind.

Continued vigilance against pests and diseases from abroad will be vital, because a warming climate may result in woodland pests and diseases previously unable to survive in Britain, thriving and threatening our trees and forests.

The East of England will be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, due to its geographical position. The region is expected to experience rising temperatures, falling summer rainfall, lower relative humidity and longer growing seasons. Extreme climate events, such as storms, floods and droughts, are expected to become more frequent. All of these will affect both how trees grow, and which species will survive as the nature and character of native woodland in the region changes. Oak, for example, is expected to continue to thrive, while beech is thought to be less adaptable to the expected changes.

Steve Scott, Forestry Commission England's Conservator for the region explained,

“The East of England is at the forefront of developing regional guidance with the intention of finding ways of living with climate change, rather than fighting against it.

“We foresters have to think about it too. Because of the long-term nature of tree growth and woodland management, it is vital that we take climate change into account when planning for the whole of the 21st century and beyond.”

John Rumble, Chair of the Climate Change group of the East of England Sustainable Development Round Table, said,

"This is an important addition to the suite of available information which is helping the region to react and adapt to the likely impacts of climate change.”

Copies of the summary guidance for woodland owners and managers are available, free, from the Forestry Commission, Santon Downham, Brandon, Suffolk, IP27 0TJ Tel 01842 815544 and on the Regional Woodland Strategy website,

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