So now we are aware of the threat, what can we do about it?
You may be surprised to learn that Britain’s native trees would once have been close enough for a squirrel to jump tree to tree from West to East across the country. How different from the concrete conurbations that sprawl across our land today?
Agriculture has changed all this so that today tree cover stands at about 12% across the land. This figure is 30% in the EU, but had been as low as 5% after the First World War. Fortunately, the UK Forestry Commission, along with organisations like the Woodland Trust, has helped this figure to rally.
We may feel that our gardens are a small proportion of the whole country, but author, gardener and tree expert, Tony Russell, makes the point in The Telegraph that gardeners are vital for ensuring that numbers of trees and variety amongst them are maintained.
Research shows that, as woodlands diminish, we are coming to value them more as a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of life and the harsh reality of urbanisation. Gardeners are snapping up trees in garden centres and psychologists believe it is a sense of fundamental safety and security that is innate in our genes that draws us to plant a tree.
Natural England’s statistics show that over the past year 385 million trips were made to visit woodlands.
The diseases that have threatened our trees recently include chalara faxinea (which has caused ash dieback), Phytophthora ramorum (which kills rhododendrons and bilberries), viburnum (which has brought about the felling of many larch trees), horse chestnut bleeding canker (pseudomonas syringae py aesculi) and horse chesntnut leaf miner (Cameraria ohridella). Our ever-warming climate may threaten what are currently common native species such as beech.
This should by no means dishearten tree-planting gardeners – quite the opposite. By planting trees now you keep the tree population going. But choose your tree species carefully. Tony Russell recommends diversity – let’s confuse those breeding pests and diseases, not let them catch a hold of a species and run rife.
If you are choosing a tree for your garden – or woodland if you are lucky enough to have one – then do read Tony’s article first and his list of best trees to plant.