Bristol’s trees currently provide 15 per cent canopy coverage, but environmental experts say this needs to increase to 30 percent over the next three decades to help combat increasing pollution.
The ‘Talking Trees’ campaign – which kicks off today (Monday, June 4) – aims to encourage people to plant trees in their gardens and sponsor old and new trees across the city. Partners want businesses and schools to sign up to a tree charter and the Woodland Trust is even offering up free saplings.
Supporters are being asked to share a selfie with their favourite tree to raise awareness of the challenge and Bristol-based children’s TV star Andy Day has become the first celebrity to throw his weight behind the campaingn. External sales operator for the Woodland Trust South West, Catherine Brabner-Evans, said there are numerous benefits to planting more trees in the city.
“One of the best reasons for increasing canopy coverage is to help decrease pollution levels,” she said.
“Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store carbon and produce oxygen, which is obviously good for everyone. Planting trees also helps with urban cooling and shade, increases the resilience of the landscape and increases bio-diversity.
“Urban trees also help to provide natural corridors for birds and insects to travel through and studies have shown trees and parks really contribute to the health and wellbeing. For some people urban street trees are their only access to nature.”
A reduction in central government funding and an increase in demand for council services has led many local authorities to slash tree budgets.
The Labour-controlled Sheffield council has carried out a punishing £2bn tree felling programme, which has caused controversy across the country.
In Bristol, the council finalised £2.8m of cuts to park funding – including tree maintenance – last month. Last year it was deliberating cutting the highways budget, which would have affected street tree maintenance. The Woodland Trust is sympathetic to the budgetary difficulties local councils face, but says local authorities need to recognise the financial savings trees and parks produce.
“It is really difficult for councils, and we know everyone is stretched across the country and we know planting and maintaining trees might not be high on their list of priorities,” Mrs Brabner-Evans said. “But the social benefits of trees in improving wellbeing do actually produce financial savings to health budgets. We are really pleased Bristol is really going for its target of doubling tree count and has set this really ambitious canopy coverage target.