BIO0034

Written evidence submitted by the Woodland Trust to:

The Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into Biodiversity and Ecosystems.  September 2020

Introduction

  1. The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry.  As a member of Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link”, the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England), we support their separate submission regarding Biodiversity and Ecosystems to the Environmental Audit Committee.
  2.                                                                              The Woodland Trust is submitting this additional evidence to highlight supplementary information about woods and trees that we see as key for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem function.  This evidence follows the issues and questions posed in the inquiry, but not all of the questions have been answered.

About the Trust             

  1. The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK, with over 1,200 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 500,000 supporters.
  2. The Trust wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife, and has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable; ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life; iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
  3. Contact: Richard Barnes, MCIEEM (Lead Government Affairs Officer).

Evidence

The state of biodiversity:

  1.                How effectively is the Government monitoring the impact of UK activities on biodiversity, at home and abroad?

There is no systematic monitoring or recording of loss of ancient woodland (or other woodland) and veteran trees through the planning process.  The Government chose not to introduce a “Duty to Report” within the Environment Bill, despite Defra consulting on such a duty in 2018

 

  1.                Where should the four nations prioritise resources to tackle biodiversity loss?

Evaluating measures to conserve and enhance biodiversity:

  1.                How should the Environmental Land Management scheme maintain and improve biodiversity? What role might alternative land use play in delivering improvements to biodiversity under the ELM scheme?

Meeting our ambitious environmental targets, including net zero and the recovery of nature, will require a fundamental change in the way we currently use and manage land. To be truly transformational, ELM must promote a multi-functional approach to land use that supports sustainable land management and will restore ecosystem functioning at a landscape level. Ambitious objectives can only be met through a scheme that recognises and supports the role of native trees in delivering all the main ELM objectives.

 

  1.                How effective are the new measures to enhance biodiversity within the Environment Bill, particularly biodiversity net gain and Nature Recovery Networks? Do these measures complement existing regulatory frameworks and address issues surrounding how to value nature? & How should Nature Recovery Networks be planned, funded and delivered?
  1.             How effective are other policies for conservation and enhancement of existing natural habitats, such as the Woodland Grant Schemes?

Co-ordination of UK environmental policy:

  1.             How can biodiversity and ecosystems help achieve the air, soil and water quality objectives in the 25 Year Environment Plan?

Trees and woodland are essential to all of these objectives, making a major contribution to numerous ecosystem services, including:

              sequestering carbon

              providing flood protection

              stabilising soils and maintaining soil health

              filtering air pollutants

              improving mental and physical well-being

              helping regulate temperatures.

Most of these issues are referenced for the background research and evidence in the Trust’s publication Residential Development and Trees (2019,

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/media/1688/residential-developments-and-trees.pdf ).

Economics and biodiversity:

  1.             What are the possible approaches to balancing economic growth and conservation of nature and its contributions? Is there evidence these approaches work and can be implemented?  & What does the UK Government need to do to maximise human prosperity – in terms of health, economic, and social wellbeing—within the ecological and resource constraints of a finite planet? What alternative models and measures of economic welfare can feasibly help achieve this?

Economic growth and conservation of nature are not mutually exclusive and should not be seen as a balancing act - biodiversity conservation is essential for future economic prosperity.  Europe Economics produced a report on the Economic Benefits of Woodland (2015, https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/media/1732/economic-benefits-of-woodland.pdf ), and the following is a direct extract from the Executive Summary:

The broad range and nature of the benefits associated with woodlands might mean that their full value is not understood and reflected in important decisions. 

Our objective is therefore to consider as comprehensive a range of benefits associated with trees and woodlands as possible. We consider benefits under three categories:

Direct use value. Enjoying goods and services produced by or in woodlands:

Indirect use value. Benefiting from positive externalities provided by woodlands:

Non-use value. Appreciating goods and services that woodlands may provide to others or in the future:

On those values, and excluding flood and water management benefits and health benefits beside air

pollution mitigation, the total value of UK woodlands is around £270bn.

 

There are a range of areas in which trees and woodlands might in themselves, or as part of a mix of policies, compete against other options which do not have the same wider benefits or might even have wider disbenefits. Those areas range from flood defence, to rural regeneration, to facilitating housing development. It might be easy for an appraisal process which did not include any or all of the wider benefits and disbenefits to allocate fewer resources to trees and woodlands than would be optimal given a more complete consideration of their effects.

Pairing nature-based solutions to climate change with biodiversity:

  1.             Which nature-based solutions are most effective in achieving both climate and biodiversity goals?

See the answers in Paragraph 7, but for a full analysis on how to increase tree cover and address the nature and climate emergency, see the Woodland Trust’s Emergency Tree Plan (2020, https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/media/47692/emergency-tree-plan.pdf )

 

  1.             What would constitute clear indicators of progress and cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions and how should trade-offs and co-benefits associated with nature-based solutions, biodiversity and socioeconomic outcomes be considered?

The Government should use the appropriate legislation (such as the Environment Bill, or a statutory England Tree Strategy) to set statutory targets to support the following objectives:

 

 

 

 

September 2020