More than 3,000 hectares of new woodlands are set to be planted along England’s rivers and watercourses with backing from the country’s leading environmental organisations, Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith has this week announced.
Planting trees on and around riverbanks, or allowing them to grow naturally, can help to improve water quality by blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers, manage flood risks by slowing the flow of water, boost biodiversity by creating new habitat corridors and make our rivers more climate resilient by providing shade and cooling water temperatures.
There are 242,262km of watercourses in England, and it is hoped that by planting trees in this way they will form a natural network of habitats across the country as part of our plans to expand, improve and connect these places across our towns, cities and countryside.
The ‘Woodlands for Water’ project aims to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchment areas from Devon to Cumbria by March 2025.
To support farmers and landowners to create these woodlands, they will be able to apply for funding through the ‘England Woodland Creation Offer’ grant which provides greater financial incentives for landowners and farmers to plant and manage trees, including along rivers and watercourses.
Speaking from a National Trust river tree planting project, Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “This is a hugely exciting and untapped area for woodland creation.
“The benefits of planting trees by rivers are vast – from helping biodiversity recover by creating more natural riverbanks; to slowing the flow of surface water to reduce the risk of flooding; and improving water quality by buffering rivers from harmful agricultural pollution.
“The government is committed to trebling tree-planting rates by the end of this parliament, and in this vitally important year for tackling climate change with the Glasgow COP summit, this partnership marks an important next step in our plans to build back greener.”
Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said: “I am delighted to be working with partners to launch the Woodlands for Water project and deliver another major part of the England Trees Action Plan.
“By putting the right trees in the right place, helped by our new England Woodland Creation Offer, the Woodlands for Water project can offer numerous benefits, from creating new woodland habitats; protecting existing habitats such as chalk streams; improving environments for fish by reducing water temperature, and helping rivers adapt to climate change.”