A recent report by Eirioe Economics for the Woodland Trust states that British woodlands are work £270 billion to the UK economy.
Benefits like flood reduction, public health and decreasing air pollution are brought out by the woodlands, with the value of flood management from woodland in the upper Thames alone being work between £350 and £500 per hectre annually.
Economic benefits brought about by woodland include flood reduction, public health benefits and decreasing air pollution. It also estimates the value of trees in improving air quality could be as much as £240 per hectare a year in related health benefits.
Report co-author Dr Andrew Lilico, of Europe Economics, said: “It’s a big figure. But the question we are grappling with is, ‘How do you unlock that value?’”
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “It is very important that we are involved in the thinking behind this kind of economics.
“Lots of people will say that nature is all about intrinsic value, and will question whether we should get involved in trying to place a financial value on what it provides. But we need to be a part of the conversation which is trying to make difficult choices.”
funding for woodland conservation traditionally derives from grants, corporate partnerships and individual donors. Dr Lilico and Ms Speight spoke during a conference on funding for woodlands and trees, where the theme was the search for a new funding model for British woodland. The importance of natural capital was at the heart of the debate. Natural capital enables economists to value so-called ecosystem services such as flood prevention and air quality.
Ms Speight said it was vital that the Woodland Trust took the concept of natural capital and “made it real”. Prof Rob McKenzie, of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, said that his organisation recently received a donation of £15 million to create a state-of-the-art research facility in Staffordshire for studying the effects of increased carbon dioxide on trees.
He added: “This is the kind of donation that comes along once in a lifetime so it is vital that we do something for the future.”
Prof David Maddison, chairman of the economics advisory panel for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural affairs (Defra), said there were three potential funding solutions that could help highlight the economic value of woodland: first, for the Government to provide subsidies for trees and woodland; second, to create regulations that stop woodland sites being developed on; and third, to find ways of excluding people from their benefits if they refuse to pay.
He described the challenge facing woodland as “excludability” – people who do not want to pay cannot be forced to pay. He said: “If you don’t pay your electricity bill you will be cut off – which provides a powerful motivator. There is nothing like that for woodland ecosystem services.”