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Gemma Woodfall, Trees Outside Woodlands Project Lead at The Tree Council, updates us on the development of innovative trials testing some of the biggest issues facing the successful establishment of trees outside woodlands.

Building partnerships to learn what makes tree establishment effective

Tree Wardens know very well that simply planting trees and expecting them to thrive isn’t always an effective way to nurture our treescapes. So we were delighted to be awarded funding to deliver this research project, which aims to establish new techniques to grow ‘Trees Outside Woodlands’. It is funded through the Treasury’s Shared Outcomes, with a £2.5m partnership budget till March 2023. The project is being jointly managed by Defra, Natural England and The Tree Council, with five local authority partners.

The project’s vision is to develop new ways of expanding bio-secure tree cover at reduced costs, to meet increased UK tree planting ambitions and reverse trends in tree losses.

Testing, testing, one, two, tree

During the first three months of the project The Tree Council has been working closely with partners to define five initial pilot projects. Once the planting season is complete, the team will start to define three desk-based scoping studies, furthering the scope of the project.

The five pilots can be broadly outlined as:

  1. Urban Tree Establishment – investigating small-scale planting using the Miyawaki planting method; natural regeneration; seeding; and planting transplants, to deliver optimal ecosystem services benefits. It is also researching urban establishment methods and design guides for new developments and how to influence utility providers to increase tree planting.
  2. Subsidised New Trees Scheme – trialling how different levels of subsidy (subsidised trees, free trees and ‘only planting advice’) impacts on the uptake of tree schemes, tree numbers and survival of trees planted.
  3. Agroforestry and Orchards – investigating the existing extent of these land-uses with farmers and landowners and exploring the barriers and incentives to uptake. The project will assess whether ‘up-front’ interventions (capital support) or specialist information and on-site advice will increase the rate of uptake in agroforestry/ orchards.
  4. Management of Hedgerow Trees – investigating changes in management that could reverse hedgerow tree losses. It will explore encouraging more trees within the farmed landscape around hedges and field corners by testing establishment techniques and different hedgerow management techniques.
  5. Boosting Community Tree Nurseries (CTN) – exploring the development of a network of thriving English CTNs and investigate their role in supplying locally produced, diverse, high quality, biosecure planting stock by exploring the barriers to CTN establishment, their development and long-term viability.
This is just the beginning

Defra are delighted at the progress that has been made since the start of the project in September 2020. As the project lead, I’ve been inspired by the commitment of the local authorities involved and their ambitions to tackle some of the largest issues facing the increased establishment of trees outside woodlands. So far, we’ve been in touch with a few Tree Wardens whilst the project has been warming up but we know that there is so much more that can be achieved with the help of Tree Wardens over the next two years of the project to harness the power of the community.

Well done to all the local authorities and partners involved – stay tuned for more updates and ways to get involved with this exciting work.