Robin Hood might not make it in modern-day England.
That’s because Sherwood Forest, the “rob-from-the-rich/give-to-the-poor” do-gooder’s best hideout for evading the Sheriff of Nottingham, might be among U.K. woodlands in danger of disappearing thanks to a wide range of plights, some associated with planet overheating.
Eleanor Tew, Forestry England’s forest planning head and lead author of a study that analyzed the biggest threats to the country’s trees, had a clear assessment of the findings: “sobering and alarming,” she told the Guardian.
What’s happening to the U.K.’s trees?
A study published by Forestry leveraged the knowledge of 1,200 experts, outlining dire possibilities set to be realized within 50 years.
“Catastrophic ecosystem collapse,” the study describes as a “sobering prospect,” in no uncertain terms. That assessment is supported by plights likely to impact England’s trees, including disease, extreme weather, and wildfires.
Droughts and floods are among 15 issues to be considered (as part of the study’s horizon scan), according to the experts. The scan also included steps, like better forest management and urban tree planting, as solutions.
Disease could also have a terrible impact on certain species. The Guardian reports that a fungal outbreak will likely kill 80% of England’s ash trees.
“The problem comes when you get all of those things happening at the same time as multiple, interrelated threats,” Tew told the Guardian. “That just overwhelms the forest, and you basically get trees dying and the forest ecosystem collapsing … that has massive landscape impacts, and significant impacts for society.”
Why is it important?
Aside from being a great place for Little John, forests are pivotal to our health. Trees clean our air, removing 48 pounds of air pollution a year per mature tree. That’s why the study’s experts consider forests to be crucial to counteracting our overheating planet. Biodiversity and providing wood for products are among the other important roles forests fulfill.
Tree loss is a hard blow for the U.K. particularly. The study notes that the country is sparsely forested, at 13%, while other European countries average 46%.
“Forestry has always been about planning for the long-term, and we’re at a time of huge change,” Tew said to the Guardian.
What’s being done to help?
The U.K. government is taking on the problem with an aggressive plan to plant about 74,000 acres of woodlands yearly by 2025, per the study.
Aggressive tree planting can create great results, as evidenced by a couple in Brazil who saved a forest by growing 2 million trees in 20 years, transforming 1,740 acres into lush forest.
But you don’t have to recreate a forest to have an impact. Adding a single tree of the right species to your backyard can provide shade, color, privacy, and fresh air, according to none other than Bob Vila (or at least his website).
To help out across the pond, you can research and support organizations that plant trees there. Be sure to vet nonprofits before donating.
“We do have time to make a difference, and there is a lot we can do to make our forests more resilient,” Tew told the Guardian.
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