Studies by the Woodland Trust suggest the impact of ash dieback on 12 million trees outside of woods could prove disastrous both for wildlife and our cherished landscapes, with the charity launching a new initiative encouraging people to plant trees specifically in areas badly affected by the tree disease.
By mapping 280 million trees across England and Wales, the Trust has been able to compare different scenarios when ash trees are lost within woodlands and in the wider countryside. Initial indications suggest that even minimal tree loss from hedgerows and field margins would have a huge impact on the connectivity of the landscape.
The Trust is providing 1,000 subsidised ‘Disease recovery packs’ of trees specifically to be planted in hedgerows, verges, along field edges and watersides in the wider landscape, as a pilot in five English counties badly affected by ash dieback; Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, East Sussex and Northumberland. The new tree packs contain 45 trees from a mix of five native species and come with tailored advice on planting, which will differ according to the type and condition of the landscape being planted into.
Austin Brady, Woodland Trust director of conservation, said: “Hedgerows1 cover tens of thousands of kilometres of the country, providing essential wildlife corridors which link our ever more fragmented habitats.
“We want to ensure hedgerows remain connected and individual trees outside of woods remain in the landscape, which is why we need to work in collaboration with landowners across the UK.”
Hedgerows are a biodiversity priority habitat yet many are subject to inappropriate management or no management at all. The result is that once lost, most hedgerow trees can only be replaced by deliberate action.
The trees will be supplied as part of a £4.5m investment in native tree stock by the Trust, which ensures all the trees the charity provides are grown in the UK from fully traceable seed stock sourced throughout the UK and Ireland.
Schools and communities can also continue to apply for free tree packs to plant in publicly accessible spaces to help increase tree cover and improve wildlife habitats. The Trust also offers support for landowners who wish to plant trees on a larger scale through its MOREwoods scheme. For further information visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treedisease