The trees will be planted this winter through a scheme developed by the Devon Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Staff from the conservation charity’s Working Wetlands project will be distributing saplings to landowners in six areas of the county in which they have been working for the past five years. The areas are spread across Devon and include the catchments of the rivers Yeo, Dart, Tamar and Otter, as well as the lower reaches of the River Exe, and an area around Dartmoor’s Fernworthy Reservoir.
As well as providing new homes for a wide range of insects, birds, fungi and mammals, the trees will also play an important part in helping landscapes become more resilient to flooding and reduce the amount of pollution from soil erosion. Both outcomes are major strands in the efforts of the Working Wetlands project.
Ruth Testa, Working Wetlands manager said:
“It’s great that we are able to provide these trees for the landowners we work with. Planting trees and hedges allows areas of wildlife habitat to become better linked, and at the same time they will benefit water quality. Woodland planting can help as a natural flood management tool by slowing the flow of water through the landscape. In turn, this means that local river levels won’t fluctuate as much or as quickly, key parts in reducing flood risk.”
“Trees also help in the battle against pollution in our rivers. The trees’ roots help to stabilise soils and trap soil sediments which would otherwise be lost as part of water run-off from the land, creating pollution in local water courses.”
25 separate tree species have been chosen for the project. All are native to Devon and include oak, hawthorn, hazel, rowan and crab apple. The 10,000 trees have been supplied as saplings by the Woodland Trust, who are a partner in the planting project.
Graham Burton, South West Woodland Outreach Manager for the Woodland Trust said:
“This is one example of how we support increased tree cover across the county. We often liaise directly with landowners exploring opportunities and support for tree planting, but we are proud to be able to support other partners with their aims too. It is all part of a bigger vision to increase woodland cover across the county – as a charity we are aiming to plant 50 million trees across the UK over the next five years. Trees are vital in capturing carbon, providing corridors and habitats for our struggling wildlife and providing specific solutions, like in this example, related to water management.”
As well as concentrating on specific parts of Devon, the planting project will also target key places where the new trees can have the greatest impact. Ruth Testa said:
“We’re especially keen to help local landowners and farmers to plant new, mini-woodlands of less than half a hectare within fields and/or create short extensions to hedges of less than 100 metres. The knowledge of local people will be key to assessing where new trees can help most in reducing soil sediment pollution of nearby ditches, streams and rivers, and ensure that they are best placed to slow the flow of water through local landscapes, reducing the risk of flooding further downstream.”
Working Wetlands is supported by South West Water through its Upstream Thinking initiative, a multi-award-winning catchment management scheme which applies natural landscape-scale solutions to improve water quality and supply.
David Smith, South West Water’s Upstream Thinking programme manager, said:
“Last year we announced ambitious plans to plant at least 100,000 trees over the next ten years as part of the Water UK commitment, so we are delighted to support this project.
Trees bring both environmental and wellbeing benefits. They help combat climate change, prevent flooding and add to the natural beauty of our region.”
“We take our commitment both to the planet and to the local environment very seriously, and I personally look forward to seeing more trees in the South West of England in the years ahead.”
Landowners who think they fall within one of the project’s target areas and who would like to discuss tree planting are being encouraged to contact the Working Wetlands project on 01409 221823 or by email.