Greening the Common Agricultural Policy

Further written evidence submitted by the Woodland Trust (GCAP 23a)

 

Overview

1. The greening proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy as set out by the EU, should they eventually be adopted in the UK, could benefit tree planting in two ways: by allowing all recipients of agri-environment schemes to automatically qualify for the greening payment; this would encourage farmers to continue to use agri-environment funding to integrate tree planting and management into the everyday management of their land.

2. By promoting tree planting as a means to achieve greening payments for those who are not part of agri-environment schemes, this would enable farmers to undertake measures that would truly deliver environmental benefits.

3. The EU has confirmed that trees planted under Rural Development Regulations schemes within the upcoming period 2014 – 2020 will qualify for inclusion within Ecological Focus Areas.

Woodland, productive agriculture and the wider landscape

4. For centuries native trees and woods have provided services and benefits to farmers and society. The Woodland Trust believes that an increase in native trees and woods can play a vital role supporting productive agriculture and helping farms adapt to climate change, whilst providing a range of benefits to society as a whole.

5. Woodlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services. These include provisioning (e.g. fuel and fibre), supporting (e.g. soil formation), regulating (e.g. climate, flood hazard, noise, and air quality regulation), and cultural (e.g. cultural heritage, amenity, health, recreation and tourism) services. Ecosystem service provision is sensitive to land management objectives [1] .

6. Woods and shelterbelts increase water infiltration reducing surface runoff [2] . Studies at Pontbren in Wales have found that soil infiltration rates are up to 60 times higher under young plantations than heavily grazed pasture, with infiltration rates improving by 90 per cent within two years of tree planting [3] . When used as buffer strips alongside watercourses or planted on steep slopes or along contours, trees and hedges reduce sedimentation and runoff of manure and fertiliser following heavy rainfall by as much as 90 per cent [4] .This prevents loss of soil and nutrients from the farm and improves water quality downstream.

7. Trees provide the added advantage of offering shade to watercourses which lowers the water temperature and improves oxygen levels in the watercourse to the benefit of fish and other wildlife [5] .

8. Expansion of native woodland to buffer and extend habitat, particularly ancient woodland and semi-natural habitats, can help increase their resilience to climate change by reducing the impact of activities on adjacent land. It also provides space for wildlife to spread out from existing habitat.

9. Newly created woodland can see a rapid increase in the abundance of insects amongst establishing trees, attracting birds, particularly species of open country such as skylarks and linnets. The abundance of insects also attracts foraging bats; up to nine species of bats have been found to use even very early stage woodland [6] .

10. Whilst many of the less mobile plants associated with ancient woodland will not colonise for many years, other woodland plants, such as lords-and–ladies, herb- robert , wood avens and honeysuckle are faster to colonise.

11. Targeted woodland creation may also help the movement of species through the landscape as climate change alters their natural range [7] .

12. The planting of individual trees is also important, providing habitat for many species and ‘stepping stones’ across the landscape. Many of our most important ancient trees are found in fields and along hedges; providing the next generation of ancient trees is vital to the survival of species reliant on this habitat.

13. To ensure that native trees and woodland can make a full contribution to adaptation of farming and providing wider benefits to society we would like to see greater financial support and advice for farmers for tree planting and woodland creation, particularly for;

· Creation of shade and shelterbelts which improve animal welfare, protect crops and reduce energy consumption

· On farm energy production from woodfuel

· Screening of livestock housing to help capture emissions of ammonia and other pollutants

· Use of native trees to create buffer strips for watercourses and woodland which can help to attenuate flooding

· Expansion of areas of ancient woodland through native woodland creation

· Native woodland creation which contributes to the movement of wildlife across the landscape

· More individual trees in the landscape including in fields and hedges

20 December 2011


[1] Valatin , G. & Starling, J. (2010) Economic assessment of ecosystem services provided by UK Woodlands. The Economics Team of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, Forest Research.

[2] Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Agroforestry Forum, downloaded at:

[2] http://www.macaulay.ac.uk/agfor_toolbox/manage.html

[3] Carroll, Z.L. Bird, S.B., Emmett,B.A . Reynolds, B. and Sinclair, F.L. (2004) ‘Can tree shelter belts on agricultural land reduce flood risk?’, Soil use and management , 20, pp 357-359

[4] Calder, I.R, Harrison, J., Nisbet , T.R. and Smithers , R.J. (2008) Woodland actions for biodiversity and their role in water management , The Woodland Trust, Grantham

[5] Forest Research, The role of riparian shade in controlling stream water temperature in a changing climate . Available at: http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/riparianshade

[6] Blakesley , D. (2006) Woodland Creation for Wildlife – a guide to creating new woodland for wildlife in Kent and East Sussex , East Malling Research Station, Kent

[7] Woodland Trust, Space for Nature .Available at: http://www.treeforall.org.uk/AboutTreeForAll/

[7] WhyTreeForAll/Science/spacefornature.htm

Prepared 23rd January 2012