They are often seen as a big part of the solution to mitigating climate change but while trees have a major role to play in sequestering carbon, plantings must be carefully thought out.
It came as local authorities, working with community groups, volunteers, private individuals and non governmental organisations were encouraged to tap into Defra’s new £2.7million funding initiative to increase tree planting and natural regeneration in their communities.
It is understood up to 50 grants worth £50,000 to £300,000 will be available under the Local Authority Treescape fund, with applications opening from April 2021 and informed of their success by the end of July 2021.
Forestry Commission chair, Sir William Worsley, who appeared in a net zero debate at the Low Carbon Agriculture show last week, said: “The Local Authority Treescapes Fund can play an important role in creating resilient new tree growth in our communities, particularly in areas which have lost trees to historical neglect and disease.
"This grant gives greater recognition to the public benefits and ecosystem services provided by woodland and the true cost of creating woodland by paying for the provision of those benefits over and above compensating landowners for the capital costs of trees."
Sir William said that while trees had a critical role to play in boosting biodiversity and were important wildlife habitats, useful shelter belts for livestock and a carbon store, they helped satisfy the UK’s ’insatiable’ timber demand.
"We need more productive timber. We import 80 per cent of the timber we use, we are the second biggest importer of timber after China and this risks being sourced from increasingly unsustainable sources leading to a net increase in global greenhouse gas emissions rather than a decrease which is what we need," he told the virtual event.
"Good modern woodland design means biodiversity cannot be ignored and we cannot plant monocultures.
"Hopefully with a good payment scheme we can arrive at more balanced woodland creation."
He said getting this balance right was critical, in terms of balancing the biodiversity ’crisis’ with the climate emergency.
"We must not just focus on carbon as the soil objective," he added.
"We must stick to the principle of the right tree in the right place for the right reason."
The grant announcement supports the Government’s tree planting ambitions and goals set out in the 2018 Tree Health Resilience Strategy.
Forestry Minister, Lord Goldsmith, added: “This is an opportunity for communities to work with their local authorities to identify land, design projects and apply for funds.
"Trees and land restoration are central to our plans for nature recovery and to get to net zero emissions, and we know how much value people place on trees and green spaces in their local communities.”
Scottish Forestry’s staff said they have approved applications for more than 13,000 hectares of new woodland for this year.
It is now down to foresters, farmers and land managers to get their projects planted this month and help make this a record year for tree planting in Scotland.
The yearly planting targets were increased to 12,000 hectares last year and will rise to 18,000 hectares in 2024/25.
With just three months left until outturn against the yearly target is announced, woodland owners across Scotland are also working to complete projects and claim by the March 31, 2021 deadline.
In recognition of the difficulties caused by this winter’s snow, as well as Covid-19, Scottish Forestry will be offering increased flexibility to allow claimants to maximise planting by March 31.
Forestry Grant Scheme Claims will still need to be submitted to Scottish Forestry by the end of March, but a further period of two months until the end of May is being allowed for supporting documents and evidence to be submitted.
This will allow projects to continue planting up until the end of March and two further months to complete site surveys, mapping and prepare the documents needed to support their claims.
The forestry sector supports about 25,000 jobs in Scotland and generates £1 billion to the economy each year.