An experimental ‘super forest’ is being planted in England to test how we can plant as many trees as possible.
Planting more trees is one of the crucial actions for combating climate change, as trees absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating.
Now, saplings from 1,000-year-old oak trees are being planted to create a ‘super forest’ in Oxfordshire, as part of an experiment to find the ‘best’ trees for tackling climate change. The aim is to develop a formula for planting whole woodlands that can soak up carbon emissions and provide space for nature and people.
“They’ve lived for so long; just think what they’ve seen,” said forester Nick Baimbridge when speaking of the oak trees that have stood on The Blenheim Estate for as long as 1,000 years.
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The Blenheim Estate has received a government grant of £1 million to plant 270,000 trees in nine new woodlands.
In 2020, the oaks produced a huge crop of acorns, indicating their potential usefulness for meeting ambitious tree planting quotas. Foresters collected the acorns and took them to a tree nursery on the estate, where they were planted into pots and left to grow.
The saplings will take many years to grow big enough to be planted out in the forest, but experts believe it is worth the wait for the benefits the oaks will provide.
Britain is one of the least wooded parts of Europe and the government needs to treble tree planting efforts to meet its goal of creating 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year in the UK by 2025.
Forest ‘must be built to last’
Experts warn that the forests must be built to last, with absorbing carbon emissions as well as providing crucial habitats for native wildlife.
That is the role of the experimental ‘super forest’ in Oxfordshire, where scientists can monitor and test which trees and plants serve the best purpose for fighting climate change.
They will plant 27 different types of tree and the woodlands will be monitored to assess their effectiveness at removing carbon emissions, enhancing biodiversity, and cleaning up air and water.
The Morgan Sindall Group, a construction company, is also a partner in the project alongside the government.
Graham Edgell of Morgan Sindall says the company wanted to “do the right thing” by creating woodlands in the UK with paths open to everybody. “It’s not some gesture of writing a cheque and walking away; we’re going to be with this woodland for 25 years as a minimum,” Graham says.
Inspired to act?
DONATE: Forestry England have built over 1,800 miles of walking, running and cycling trails, supply England’s largest amount of sustainably-sourced timber, and conserve thousands of plant and animal species. To support their work, visit their website.
GET INVOLVED: If you want to volunteer to plant trees or tidy up your local forests, Woodland Trust have a page with more information.