The Northern Forest & Why All Woodlands Aren’t Equal

Woodlands are such beautiful and vibrant places. There are countless wildflowers blooming this April like primroses, bluebells and wood sorrel. Woodlands also provide vital habitats and support a range of species from plants and fungi to mammals and birds.

Unfortunately, the North of England has a very spotty forest cover. The UK average forest cover is 13% while the north falls much lower than this at 7.6% cover.

The Northern Forest is a reforestation project that will form a green belt across England, from Hull to Liverpool and help bolster the green infrastructure.

From November to March 2020, over 100 thousand trees were planted in this region by the woodland trust. This is double what was possible last year! Rewilding northern England is essential for many reasons.

New trees are vital for tackling climate change. Green infrastructure can both draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help buffer against extreme events such as flooding that go hand in hand with global warming.

It can help purify the air and increase mental wellbeing among residents. It will also boost the economy, creating new jobs in both the planting effort and forest management.

The new trees will create links between both ancient and recent woodlands, allowing UK wildlife passage across the landscape.

However, the planned railway line for High Speed 2 poses a considerable threat to 108 Ancient woodlands in the UK, some of which are within the Northern Forest area. This threat includes the loss of 4.1ha of Sheffield’s Nor Woods, which is currently the single most significant loss of ancient woodland on Phase 2b of the HS2 route.

There is so little ancient woodland left in this country. Only 2.4% of the UK is ancient forest. They are also irreplaceable, as they comprise hundreds of years of undisturbed soils and are home to the more threatened species than any other terrestrial habitat. They are hugely complex, biodiverse, and distinct from other woodland. This also includes other areas of ancient woodland!

While the government are heavily investing in the formation of the Northern Forest, they are still thoughtlessly destroying ancient trees across the country to make way for HS2. There is a need for improved public transport links, but that need shouldn’t be met at the cost of irreplaceable habitats.

For more information about the Northern Forest, and how you can get involved with campaigning to save ancient woodlands from HS2 and other threats, check out the Woodland Trust website.

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