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Managing woodlands in the face of climate change

Dec 23rd, 2019

Françoise Vandale, Partner

We are all seeing the impact of long periods of heavy rainfall with parts of Nottinghamshire, as well as other regions, resembling lakes rather than land.  Farming businesses have been hit particularly severely. Whilst some farmers struggle to get their produce out of the ground, others cannot drill the next crop in, all of this having an impact on the bottom line.

With our warming world and sea levels rising these extreme weather patterns are becoming a little too frequent. With winters predicted to become wetter with intense rainfall events like we are seeing at the moment, and summers drier, with severe periods of drought, this is certainly something that cannot be ignored.

There is no doubt that woodlands help in the fight of climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is estimated that UK woodlands store over 48 million tonnes of carbon showing the value of maintaining these woodlands and creating new ones. They also help with managing the risk of flooding.

The Forestry Commission has recently published a guidance booklet on managing woodlands in the face of climate change. The booklet is intended to offer practical advice to landowners on ways they can manage their woodlands more effectively to combat the effects on climate change. The Commission recognises that “Managing climate change risk is now a critical part of managing our woodlands, and we must make significant changes to widely accepted and practised forest management in England.

The booklet describes the effects that rising temperatures will have on our trees, both in the short and the long term, leading to some devastating consequences.  Initially the effects are likely to be seen by declining tree health (through things like increased risk of pests and diseases), problematic establishment and a short life span. As climate change advances, we are likely to see mature trees die. Wildfires are almost certain to become an increasing factor affecting the condition and longevity of certain areas. We are already witnessing the Australian and Californian bushfires taking a hold never seen before.

The Government spending review in September this year announced a commitment to £250 million for international climate and environment funds and £30 million for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop decarbonisation schemes to move the UK towards its net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050. The Environment Bill looked promising but is stalled for obvious reasons. At the time of writing it is unclear who will win the election on the 12th December, making the position of the spending commitment and the Environment Bill uncertain. It is hoped that whatever colour may be in power they will be prepared to work hard at limiting any future involvement the UK may have with increasing the planet’s temperature.

If anyone has been affected by the flooding in our region Nottinghamshire Rural Support can offer support and guidance to you. Please do get in touch with them 0800 138 1710.

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