Woods for the Trees

Trees are good for the planet; woods are even better.

Trees store carbon.  Woodland soils store more carbon.  Both provide habitats for our stressed wildlife, mitigate the effects of flooding and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, provide valuable social amenity and locally sourced raw materials for crafts and building.  Trees convert sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and a few trace minerals into oxygen, cellulose, lignin, glucose and other complex, useful materials.  They provide pollen for insects even when more showy flowers are scarce.  Woods are super-organisms: climate controllers, they cool and humidify air in summer, insulate the earth in winter.  Over centuries, they become uniquely connected biomes, working landscapes and treasure chests of resources for future generations. 

Our model envisages ordinary people – communities, schools, individuals – who want to make an active contribution to climate change, conservation and ecology in Britain, being given the opportunity to do something useful, creative and socially engaging.  The case for planting more trees in Britain is now unanswerable; identifying land on which to plant, organising and training people and acquiring trees requires some careful and imaginative thinking.

Arguments about just how much carbon trees are able to absorb and store vary, but there’s a simple way of looking at it.  A wood of 8 acres (3ha) will yield about 8 tonnes of wood per year, sustainably – forever.  Turn that into charcoal and it will yield about a tonne and a half of carbon; a good guide to trees’ storage capabilities.  More carbon, absorbed and retained by woodland soils, is a long term asset for the earth, while growing trees, even if they are harvested on a regular cycle for firewood, go on cycling and absorbing carbon throughout their lives.