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EditorialsUp Front 05/18

Up Front 05/18

Last week I was shown a map of trees planted in 2017 in the Heart of England Forest in Warwickshire. The brainchild of the late Felix Dennis, the forest started with a small wood that he planted in 1996. At one point Felix was one of the 100 richest people in England and before he died in 2014, he decided that all his wealth and the profits from his various businesses should go into a trust, with the primary purpose of planting trees for the benefit of the local community—and of course, the planet. By 2013 over 1 million trees had been planted and this year the map shows an area that is now home to over 1.5 million trees. There is a level of pride and excitement in those that have taken on the task of fulfilling his legacy, and its benefit to the area is already very obvious. Thankfully, it’s one of many tree planting projects across the planet. Emmanuel Chibesakunda in Lusaka, Zambia, recently launched an initiative to plant over two billion trees by 2021. He hopes to accelerate and scale up a tree-based economy for socio-economic change in Zambia and mitigate some of the impact of climate change. Last year, volunteers in India planted 66 million trees in twelve hours in a record-breaking environmental drive and there are numerous new programmes currently being launched from South America to Saudi Arabia. Another tree planting exercise, Trees on the Land, is an interesting example of a cross-border initiative. The not-for-profit group is working to establish young native trees across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Their goal is to provide valuable resources, beneficial ecosystem services and a lasting legacy for future generations. When it comes to trees, we seem to be able to overcome issues with borders as well as perhaps more tribal differences, and maybe the trees themselves have a lesson for us. European and Chinese scientists have been investigating for ten years how the diversity of tree species in forest ecosystems influences their coexistence and growth performance, and their findings are interesting. The scientists have discovered that trees growing in a species-rich neighbourhood produce more wood than those surrounded by neighbours of the same species. They were particularly impressed by the fact that the interrelationships between a tree and its immediate neighbours also led to a significantly higher productivity of the entire forest. It’s not an outcome that would be particularly popular with those that feel mixed neighbourhoods are to be avoided, but interesting that diversity can have a positive effect.

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