In Macbeth the witches give the main man a prophecy that he will be fine until “Burnam Wood move to Dunsinane”. He thinks that means he’s safe. He isn’t, because his enemies chop down the trees and use them as camouflage. The doom here in Manchester is more prosaic, as MCFly’s star reporter, Ann Onymous describes, in another bad day for the “Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub”, the unelected group of worthies that is supposed to be guiding the city to a future that is, well, low carbon…
In the Low Carbon Hub’s draft climate change and low emissions implementation plan, the Hub planned to prioritise planting 3 million trees in Greater Manchester by 2020. For context, that was an ambitious target to plant one tree for every person living in the region over the next several years. The draft report stated that this would be “part of the Manchester City of Trees initiative”. The Manchester City of Trees initiative, however, has a target of planting 3 million trees across greater Manchester by 2035. If the LCH were to oversee 3 million trees planted by 2020, this would actually supersede the Manchester City of Trees Initiative. After being contacted by a member of the public about this, the LCH decided to change their target of planting 3 million trees from 2020 to 2035.
In the report, the LCH states that it will work with Red Rose Forest and Manchester Airport to deliver the planting of these trees. Red Rose Forest has consistently, over the past decade, missed their targets of planting new areas of woodland in Greater Manchester. As recently as 2013/14 they were only planting 8% of their target of planting new woodland areas. This therefore doesn’t offer much hope for the LCh to meet its 2035 target of planting 3 million trees. By 2035, this target will be completely forgotten by us all, so there will be no consequences if the target is met or not. It is therefore disappointing that the LCH does not appear to be setting any interim targets for the number of trees planted by 2020. Doing this would make it easier for people to be held accountable if the target wasn’t met.
They really ought to get a move on with this. There are a lot of trees in Manchester; take a train journey from Heald Green to Piccadilly and you will see a forest of trees. The problem is that these are mostly street trees, probably of a similar age and planted in the Victorian era and after WWI. By 2035 many of these trees will be past their best, if not dead (many are Manchester, or Black, Poplar, which are not long lived). Replacement of these trees should be started now, and in earnest, if gap in our tree cover are to be replaced; never mind increasing that tree cover. We should also be careful where new trees are planted indenture that other valuable habitats, like meadowland, are not used as planting sites. Good luck with the Red Rose Forest; I just hope they have employed a better director than they had when I was involved with them.
Correction to my previous post (I think the predictive spelling thingy ran amok): “Replacement of these trees should be started now, and in earnest, if GAP in our tree cover are to be replaced; never mind increasing that tree cover. We should also be careful where new trees are planted INDENTURE that other valuable habitats, like meadowland, are not used as planting sites.”, should read, “Replacement of these trees should be started now, and in earnest, if GAPS in our tree cover are to be replaced; never mind increasing that tree cover. We should also be careful where new trees are planted AND ENSURE that other valuable habitats, like meadowland, are not used as planting sites.
Actually, @ManCityCouncil has been cutting down trees for the past two decades and it is a myth Manchester has a lot of trees. The planting of 3 million trees would not replace those already lost. During our fight against Manchester Metropolitans University’s Birley Fields campus. I pointed out to the university and the council, the councils own report on the lack of green space in the Central Manchester area. As well as, various reports, on the benefits of green spaces in urban areas, on the mental and psychical well-being of residence. This is especially true of areas that are wild or semi-wild, as Birley Fields was.
Manchester is a failed City, with a high proportion of people in deprivation and poor health (mental and physical), propped up by a mostly white university educated (supposedly) middle-class. Manchester is the Detroit of the UK.
I strongly hope that the tree planting targets are not met; here’s why:
Because planting trees, for the sake of planting trees, or because it’s seen as a virtuous and ‘green’ thing to do, is an ill-informed and ignorant pastime. It often does more harm than good – especially if the wrong trees are planted in the wrong place – as they often are. The late Oliver Rackham – the distinguished authority on trees, woodland and the British countryside – had this to back in 1986:
“Too much attention, and too much money, goes into the automatic and unintelligent planting of trees. Tree-planting is not synonymous with conservation; it is an admission that conservation has failed … People plant trees, and get grants for doing so, without even looking to see whether there are trees on the spot already. Round the corner from my house the local authority has planted ashes where there are already perfectly good ash saplings.
Planting trees, except in replacement for trees known themselves to have been planted, erodes the historic landscape. It diverts funds and attention away from real conservation, and encourages people to go on destroying wild trees. It may damage existing meadows, ancient woods, and other places where the planted trees are to grow.”
This passage remains as true and as relevant as it was when it was written 30 years ago. ‘Around the corner from my house’, someone has recently planted an ash tree (and elaborately staked and mulched it) without noticing that the surrounding area is being invaded by countless thousands of self-sown ash saplings!
And it gets worse because “unintelligent planting of trees” has been linked to the introduction of tree diseases (the planted trees have often been imported from abroad and the diseases come with them). Ash Die-back is the latest imported horror. This doesn’t appear to have arrived in Manchester yet but if and when it does, all hell will break loose. I wonder if any of the tree planting enthusiasts have noticed that Manchester is full of big, mature Ash trees – all of which will have to be felled, at enormous expense, if they should die? In the near future, Manchester could be a “City of Dead Trees”!
Finally, tree planting will have little or no effect on climate change. Rackham wrote that Britain is far too small to make an appreciable difference to global CO2 levels:
“… exhorting people to plant trees to sequester carbon dioxide is like telling them to drink more to hold down rising sea level.”
I’ve probably posted this here before but here, again, is ‘Bishop’s Law of Tree Planting’:
“An organisation’s knowledge of, and/or concern for, the environment is inversely proportional to its propensity to plant trees.”
Well put Mr. Bishop; far better than I could have.
What Patrick Ludlow and David Bishop say is true. However, trees planted in Urban areas do, at least, ameliorate local pollution and, though the contribution the UK can make to international sequestration of CO2 is small, it can make a contribution and, every little counts. Some years ago, the Manchester Wildlife Group undertook some woodland management on Kenworthy Fields, in the Mersey Valley, which was planted as screening for the M60 motorway. This was coppicing of Ash plantations, which we undertook two years running. The trees have now regrown but it was a pity we were not allowed to continue with this work, though we did submit a management plan to the Mersey Valley Wardens. I used the wood, from these trees, to make chairs using a pole-lathe and one thing I noticed was the fast growth of the Ash; they had added up to an inch in diameter, per annum, which is a fantastic amount. My theory is that the extra CO2, from the vehicles on the motorway was absorbed by the trees making a small contribution to reducing the effects of Global Warming. We do have to be careful where we plant trees, so as not to destroy other important wildlife habitats but, planting trees in the city centre, and alongside busy roads can help to reduce local, and international, pollution.