I’ve just picked up on a new guidance document published this month from DEFRA / Forestry England. It provides some clear and in some cases shocking info on the impacts of projected climate change on England’s forests and woodlands.
Whether your interest is in protecting ancient native woodlands, managing existing woodlands or planting new woodlands and plantation forests, there are some stark messages in here.
I’ve had a skim. There are some useful summary infographics and it’s quite readable and quite succinct (16pages). I’d urge you to take a look at it yourself, but some take-home messages I’ve pulled from it if you are in a hurry –
- Foresters and woodland managers have to think on long timescales.
- Climate change is here, it’s real and will continue happening for decades, however much action governments take to respond to the climate emergency.
- Projected climate change will exceed capacity for forests to naturally change / species to migrate, so human intervention is required to help them adapt.
- We should expect wetter, milder winters, longer growing seasons, warmer, drier summers, more drought, more extreme rainfall events.
- Wet places could get wetter, dry places drier.
- This will affect tree establishment, regeneration and even cause loss of some mature tree stock.
- Think about diversity of new woodland plantings, both in species composition and genetic diversity.
- Consider sourcing some stock from 2-5 degrees latitude south to include in planting.
- Think about more autumn / early winter planting to avoid establishment problems in spring droughts.
You may find some other interesting details in the guidance, particularly some specifics of tree species. It also mentions the added uncertainties of tree diseases and mortality and the the increasing importance of biosecurity for tree health.
On a local basis I realise that I’ve already been a party to discussions about species composition of new woodland plantings in relation to ash dieback and in Scarborough Borough we are leaving out ash from our new tree planting mixes, and having to speculate as to the future canopy dominant species – Oak? Sycamore? Hornbeam?
We maybe need to think much more, however, about the bio-geography of woodlands in the face of climatic change and in the provenance of our tree stock as we embark on the inevitable flurry of enthusiasm for planting trees. Others have also mentioned the concern about valuable grassland habitats being lost to over-zealous new woodland planting too and that’s a subject I may return to another time.