Thinking Green and Planting Trees
Reforestation and afforestation are two key components that will help to stimulate the decarbonisation of Manchester. Worldwide, the realisation that trees have much more value than simply providing timber has become apparent in recent years: they keep soils moist, mitigate against flood risk, and have the potential to provide urban landscapes with cleaner air and fight against pollution.
China plan to build their very own ‘forest city’ – Liuzhou Forest City, in the mountainous area of Guangxi. The ambitious plan features towers covered entirely in plants, leaves and shrubbery, hosting 40,000 trees and almost 1 million plants in total. Similarly, China has recently reassigned 60,000 soldiers to plant trees, in an equally impressive bid to combat the country’s growing pollution problem.
Although the UK may not perhaps be as ambitious compared to such Chinese dynamism, the Manchester City of Trees initiative encompasses the general passion for a greener Britain. The scheme shares a vision of planting a tree for every man, woman and child in Greater Manchester. Since its conception, the organisation has planted 232,668 trees and plans to plant 3 million.
Although its benefits are hard to quantify, trees and urban greening will play a key role in the future in reducing the concentration of harmful pollutants (such as PM10) in the air. Similarly, the availability of carbon sinks will be increased, further improving air quality in our cities. Consequently, this will assist in enabling Manchester to become a zero-carbon city by 2050.
On a national scale, Britain’s recently announced its 25-Year Environment Plan, part of which, plans to create new forests (including the delivery of one million urban trees) around the UK.
In the plan, the development of a new ‘Northern Forest’, which will spread from Liverpool to The Humber, adjacent to the M62, was introduced. Planting is due to begin in Bolton in March 2018. Using £5.7 million of government funding, support will be given to the existing partnership of the Community Forests and the Woodland Trust, to further accelerate the process. In total, the proposal aims to plant 62,000 acres in a project forecast to cost £500m over 25 years. In contrast, the Chinese plan to plant close to 21 million acres of forestry by the end of this year alone (that’s roughly the size of Ireland!).
Yet, what is the best way to re-plant? The right technique to planting trees is arguably just as important as mass tree planting, which is often known for being costly and poorly managed.
A system known as agro-forestry is proving itself. Here, trees and shrubs will be grown among crops, often on poor, degraded forest land, which can, consequently, be revitalised. Ultimately an ecologically sound and more sustainable land-use system is created, providing an easy incentive for landowners to plant trees. Albeit, however, the suitability of agroforestry in urban zones could still be questioned.
For the first time in history, more than half of the worlds population is living in urban areas. The benefits that foliage, trees and green infrastructure bring, must be seized in urban zones, if we are to prosper the in the future. Although global tree loss rose to a record high 51% in 2016, the continuing ecological ideology towards reforestation is promising.