June 2016

INSPIRATION in soil and land management – a much needed component!

The recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s report on soil health has revealed that the importance of soil for society isn’t currently matched by Government actions to maintain and improve its quality. The report identifies a number of serious threats to soil functioning which require attention now in order to enable soil sustainable management by 2030.

At a European level, a project funded under the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme seeks to identify what knowledge gaps and other constraints are preventing sustainable use of land and soil. The main aim of this ‘INSPIRATION’ project is “to develop a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) to inform environmentally friendly, socially acceptable and economically affordable soil and land use management that meets societal needs and challenges”. Sixteen countries, including the UK, are involved in this project which is led in Britain by the University of Nottingham.

The main activities in the first half of this three year project have been to establish national and shared European priorities for research. Andy Moffat was pleased to be invited to participate in this process and recently acted as one of four possible National Key Stakeholders (NKS) at a Workshop in Faro, Portugal. NKS are expected to give advice on emerging strategic research needs and influence the evolution of the SRA so that it meets user needs. Additional involvement in the project will involve participation in another Workshop in September where the SRA will be further developed.

Communicating the benefits of urban trees

Despite increasing knowledge and a raft of publications identifying the benefits of urban trees and urban forests, we are still losing trees in many British towns and cities, sometimes at an alarming rate. A paper by Andy Moffat published at the end of May in ‘Arboricultural Journal’ seeks to explore this dichotomy, identify possible causal factors and propose some ways to bring tree professionals, communities and politicians together so that urban trees can receive more appropriate recognition.

The paper reviews the multiple interpretations placed on urban forestry and points to weaknesses in current approaches to communicating the benefits of urban trees. It identifies new opportunities which should be used to engage urban people and build a new understanding of trees. Increasingly, use of digital communication is seen as the most effective way of reaching communities, together with evaluation systems that quantify the value of relevant ecosystem services to urban inhabitants. The paper strongly suggests that traditional methods of communication are not working and that a new approach is necessary, especially in recessionary times.