The UK’s native woodlands are reaching a crisis point, with just 7% in good condition, according to the first comprehensive assessment of their health.
The Woodland Trust’s report found the woods facing a barrage of threats, including destruction by development, imported pests and diseases, the impacts of the climate crisis and pollution. Woodland specialist birds and butterflies have declined by almost half since 1970, it said.
The report said the high-profile drive to create new woodlands is important, but would count for little if existing woods are lost. In any case, the report said, rates of tree planting are nowhere near what is needed and less than half of the new trees are native species.
Trees should play an important role in helping the UK tackle the climate emergency and restore wildlife in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. They can also provide services such as reduced flooding and shade, as well as being important for many people’s wellbeing.
Woodland cover has nearly tripled since 1900 and makes up 13% of the UK, but half of this is forestry plantations that support relatively little biodiversity. In December, the UK’s Climate Change Committee said 2bn new trees would be needed by 2050, increasing the coverage to 18% of the country, and requiring a tripling of the growth rate.