New woodlands to be created along rivers as part of tree planting drive
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Thousands of acres of new woodlands along rivers are to be planted to help manage flood risks and boost water quality and wildlife, it has been announced.
The “woodlands for water” project aims to create 3,150 hectares (7,780 acres) of woods along rivers and waterways in six catchments from Cumbria to Devon by March 2025.
The scheme has been launched by the Environment Department (Defra), with backing from leading environmental organisations the National Trust, Woodland Trust, the Rivers Trust and Beaver Trust.
Farmers and landowners will be able to apply for funding through the Forestry Commission’s new England woodland creation offer. This provides greater financial incentives than before to plant trees to deliver positive impacts such as along rivers and water courses.
Planting or allowing trees to grow naturally on and around river banks can block the run-off of pollutants into waterways, keeping them cleaner, and slow the flow of water to manage flood risks, officials said.
Creating woodland corridors along rivers can also help wildlife and make rivers more resilient to climate change by providing shade and cooling water temperatures.
It is hoped that planting trees will help contribute to a natural network of habitats along some of the 150,000 miles of watercourses in England as part of plans to boost nature in the country.
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 project will be carried out by the “riverscapes” partnership of experts from the environmental groups, who will provide expert assistance in the selected river catchment areas
Funding for the scheme is part of the England Trees Action Plan which aims to see more trees in the ground to support climate action, nature and people.
The Rivers Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd said: “By planting the right trees in the right places, we can tackle multiple problems and provide multiple benefits: more nature, less flooding, more carbon locked up in trees and soils, fewer droughts, less pollution, more wild places for people to enjoy.
“We hope that this project will be the pathfinder for a route map to the revival of rivers and their catchment areas that can benefit every corner of England, and the rest of the UK.”
Planting will take place on the National Trust estate and in six catchment areas across the country including: Taw and Torridge in Devon and Somerset; Tamar and Fowey in Devon and Cornwall; Bure, Glaven, Stiffkey, Wensum, Heacham, Lark, Gaywood and Wissey catchment in Norfolk; Eden and Derwent in Cumbria; Teme in Shropshire and Worcestershire; Wye and Usk in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.
National Trust director of land and nature Harry Bowell said: “With 90% of UK floodplains ‘not fit for purpose’ and creating flood issues for communities, we fully recognise the value of trees to our river corridors in helping to slow flood waters, soak up carbon and keep rivers cool in the face of rising temperatures.
“This work will enhance the projects we already have underway where our primary focus has been the conservation and health of the river channel itself.”