Take a walk with us through the woods
Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans gain from ecosystems.
The info-graphic below shows some of the ecosystem services provided by trees;
Trees improve air quality by removing pollutants from the air.
Pollutants are removed from the atmosphere by absorption by the leaves and deposition on the surfaces.
Trees with a higher total leaf area remove larger quantities of air pollution . Therefore larger areas of woodland have a greater ability to remove pollution from the air.
Poor tree condition and inappropriate management practices such as pruning and pollarding reduce a trees leaf area, therefore woodlands health must be maintained and they must be managed correctly.
In towns and cities, the high cover of impervious surfaces causes rainfall to accumulate which contributes to flooding. Trees help reduce flood risk and the subsequent social, environmental and economic loss associated. Trees with larger leaf areas produce a greater surface area for water to fall onto and gather upon. This interception effect by the leaves reduces the amount of rainfall reaching the ground. Tree cover, therefore, reduces the volume of water running off the land and into rivers. This reduces the peak flow in rivers during heavy rainfall periods and reduces flooding risk.Roots also help to absorb water higher up the valley, reducing flooding risk further.
In the face of a climate crisis trees are a natural climate solution to hep heal our broken planet. Trees contribute to a reduction in green house gases by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
This process of removal is called carbon storage. A reduction in green house gases reduces the rate of warming of the atmosphere helping to counter act global warming. Carbon storage is highly correlated with the trees total volume of timber. The volume of timber itself increases with tree height, trunk diameter and canopy size. The carbon storage capacity is higher in larger areas of woodland.
Tree roots help maintain the integrity of the soil. They bind it together which reduces erosion. This can also prevent rock falls and landslides in steep areas.
Trees help increase soil fertility. When leaves fall to the soil insects work to decompose the organic material and add nutrients to the soil creating rich soils.
Trees provide a home for animals, plants, and insects.
Due to the size of the tree, they make their own microclimate. Tree microclimates are home to many animals, from insects which decompose tree leaves, making soil nutrients, to birds which nest up high in the branches.
Endangered red squirrels live in Lake District woodlands but their numbers are falling, making them harder and harder to spot.
Trees do not only support animals and insects, but plants as well.
Plants grow at the shaded base of the tree and lichen thrive on the bark.
In areas with higher air quality, you will find more lichen.
Biodiversity is greatest in woodlands with a mixture of tree species.
The world lost 129 million ha of forest between 1990 and 2015, an area the size of South Africa. When forests go, it is not just the trees that are removed. Ecosystems begin to fall apart which has large consequences for all of us.
Commercial forestry is reducing biodiversity in the Lake District. Deforestation for commercial logging reduces the amount of mixed deciduous woodland. Instead a mono culture of coniferous woodland is replaced which sustain less animal and plant species, thus reducing the biodiversity of the woodland. Woodlands with single tree species are also more susceptible to disease than woodlands of mixed species. Native species such as oak that support thousands of different species, are disappearing from our landscape.
Friends of the Lake District targets an increase in woodland cover across Cumbria and better management of existing woodlands. The company manages both trees and woodland on their land.
What do Friends of the Lake District do?
“We work to remove non-native conifer blocks and help create mixed new native woodland, through working with the Forestry Commission, the Lake District National Park Authority and Natural England. We also work to keep rural skills alive and promote woodland wildlife diversity through coppicing, pollarding, funding woodland craft skills and chainsaw usage and we have helped with apprenticeships to teach skills in coppicing and horse logging”
Friends of the Lake District have helped:
- Plant over 10,000 trees on land at The Helm, High Borrowdale, Hows Wood and Mike’s Wood.
- In 2011 stood up for the countryside when the government proposed to sell off forests owned by the Forestry Commission as part of the “Stop the forest sell-off” campaign. The government’s plans failed with the help of Friends of the Lake District supporting the countryside.
- Stop large scale afforestation of conifer trees in central Lakeland. Resultingly this created a historic Forestry Agreement between The Forestry Commission and CPRE in 1936, which enforced ‘no-go areas’ for commercial conifer plantations.
Trees play a crucial role in fighting the climate crisis by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The United Kingdoms woodland cover is only 13%, one of the lowest in Europe. We need to greatly increase our woodland cover to help tackle the climate crisis.
In order to mitigate the climate crisis we need to plant 1.5 billion trees to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Everyone can do their bit to help by planting trees. Why not get involved? you can donate to charities such as the Woodland Trust or the national trust. National Parks also help maintain the protection of forests through regular maintenance and monitoring.
Alternatively, you can buy trees from the Woodand Trust to plant yourself or have trees planted and dedicated for your friends or family (this makes a great birthday/Christmas present). Remember to get permission to plant on land from landowners if you plan to plant your own trees.
If you would like to find out more about enhancing wildlife in a woodland near you head over to the Wildlife Trust page which offers a basic guide to managing a woodland for wildlife.