Natural regeneration, or re-wilding, versus tree planting.

There is currently much debate about planting trees as a carbon capture technology to help the UK achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Some commentators seem to position natural regeneration and tree planting are often positioned as opposing methods in establishing and protecting treescapes. However, both practices have their place and will be important if we are to grow and protect the UK treescape, as well as contributing to efforts to achieve net zero carbon.

Practically this means:

  1. Planting of new trees must be done according to the tree planters’ maxim, ‘the right tree in the right place’.
  2. Tree planting schemes and projects have benefits beyond simply getting more trees planted. They engage communities, children and individuals in trees and their local environment. This must be recognised.
  3. Our precious street trees cannot materialise through natural regeneration or re-wilding. We must actively plant, protect and advocate for more urban and street trees.
  4. Our hedgerows also need our protection. We must allow them to re-establish themselves naturally, planting new hedgerows and re-connecting existing hedgerows where possible.
  5. We must support new research into climate-resilient non-natives and their possible role in ensuring a resilient future UK treescape.
  6. Concerns about the use of plastic in tree planting are valid and we must work to eradicate plastic waste associated with planting of new trees to make the process as carbon- and eco-friendly as possible.
  7. Natural regeneration is essential for re-establishing and extending our precious ancient and existing woodlands and forests. Allowing trees to grow from the natural seed bank in the ground will encourage trees that are native to the local area, promoting a resilient woodland into the future.

In conclusion.

In order to meet the scale of the challenge we face in tackling climate change and preserving our precious treescapes for the future, we will need to use every tool we have in our toolbox. This includes both natural regeneration and the establishment of new treescapes through planting from seed, whips and standards. We shouldn’t see these two approaches as oppositional to one another.

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