Defra’s announcement of an additional £2 million in government funding for the Trees Outside Woodland project was hailed by lead coordinator, The Tree Council as a “wonderful opportunity”, that recognises non-woodland trees as “among our most important treescapes”.
The second phase of the Trees Outside Woodland research and development programme, which is led by The Tree Council’s Jackie Shallcross, in partnership with Defra, Natural England and five local authorities – Kent, Norfolk, and Cornwall County Councils, Shropshire Council and Chichester District Council – will fund projects testing the effectiveness of tree planting methods and approaches in non-woodland areas.
The aim is to increase tree cover in non-woodland areas so that more, healthier trees can be planted in future, to increase access to nature within communities, improve people’s health and wellbeing, and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Jon Stokes, Director of Trees, Science and Research at The Tree Council, said: “Historically undervalued, the 4.3% of England that is covered with non-woodland treescapes – such as hedges, scrub, trees on farms, parks, and in urban settings – is now recognised among our most important treescapes.
“This funding is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about growing and protecting these precious trees.
“These are the trees that people most often see in their daily lives, and they provide essential habitat connectivity and homes for wildlife all across the country. The Tree Council is delighted to help coordinate this exciting collaboration.”
Trees outside woodlands are badly affected by tree pests and diseases and other issues, so finding ways to boost their numbers effectively will help to meet the aims of the England Trees Action Plan and government ambitions to treble tree planting rates by the end of 2024.
This will improve biosecurity within our local treescapes, enhance their protection and boost tree health, to ensure more trees become established closer to where people live. Research from the first phase is already beginning to have an impact, and successful approaches piloted will be rolled out in an England-wide grant scheme later this year.
Research projects funded by the second phase will:
- test how to sustainably improve the capacity and biosecurity of locally grown tree planting stock, to ensure more trees can be planted closer to where people live.
- research the most cost-effective and biosecure ways to plant, establish, and promote trees outside woods, enabling increases in non-woodland tree canopy cover.
- focus on sharing this knowledge with local authorities to enable enhanced local delivery of healthy and thriving treescapes.
- In the long term, help to increase tree cover within our local communities and deliver on commitments set out within the Environmental Improvement Plan to level up people’s access to nature and improve our mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
Forestry Minister, Trudy Harrison said: ““The Trees Outside Woodland programme supported myriad pilot projects up and down the country that bolstered the health and resilience of our non-woodland treescapes.
“From agroforestry schemes in Cornwall to experimental Miyawaki plots in Kent, the Trees Outside Woodland programme is providing a springboard for innovative research into tree planting.”
Trees outside of woodlands are estimated to be worth more than £3.8 billion, due to their multi-faceted role across the UK’s ecosystems. They store carbon, regulate temperatures, strengthen flood resilience and reduce air pollution.
Pilot projects so far funded by the first phase of the Trees Outside Woodland research and development programme increased tree cover within communities through subsidised and free tree schemes, and by boosting community tree nurseries, planting trees on farmed landscapes, enhancing agroforestry schemes, supporting community orchards, and exploring experimental Miyawaki plots.
The Trees Outside Woodland research and development programme is delivered in partnership by The Tree Council, Natural England, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and five Local Authorities – Chichester District Council, Cornwall Council, Kent County Council, Norfolk County Council and Shropshire Council. It is funded by the government’s Shared Outcomes Fund.