Last week, the Tree Council organised a Forum for Trees in London, with the main purpose of discussing how the UK could extend its stock of trees in order to fight the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Sixty six representatives from from sectors spanning forestry, arboriculture, property development, infrastructure and government, as well as conservation charities, farmers and scientists were invited, including the Tree Champion Sir William Worsley. Sir William gave an address describing Government policy for more tree planting and he described his continuing work to ensure that this succeeded. Amy Bray, a very impressive sixteen year old, and founder of the charity ‘Another Way’ was another inspirational speaker. Most of the day was spent determining the opportunities and challenges associated with tree planting, and finding ways to marshall the public and private sectors, as well as charities and communities themselves to rise to the challenge. Andy Moffat was delighted to take part in the event and can be seen in the account summarising the event by the Tree Council. Those interested in receiving a summary of the Forum’s findings can register interest at the Tree Council website.
Sadly, only two British universities now offer undergraduate courses with the word ‘soil’ in the course title. As a soil scientist almost by accident myself, I can see that soil may not attract many school leavers to commit three or four years in its study. But as someone who has been involved with soil management for a large part of my career, the lack of opportunity for formal soil study at a crucial time in our planet’s evolution seems very regrettable. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see that a number of professional organisations have sought to train their staff in matters of soil management. Following delivery of soil workshops in previous years, the early summer in 2019 has been an especially busy one for A J Moffat & Associates, with delivery of soil courses for the Royal Forestry Society Royal Forestry Society in Alice Holt Forest, Surrey, the Arboricultural Association at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire and, for the first time, the South Wales Trunk Road Agent near Swansea.
In 2007, whilst working for Forest Research, Andy Moffat gave a presentation at the ‘Wildfire 2007’ conference with Karl Kitchen from the Met Office entitled “Climate change and forest fires in the UK – possible impacts”. Of course this wasn’t the first time that a linkage between these two phenomena had been asserted, but it was one of the earliest to formalise the link for UK forest land management. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology published a concise and convincing update of the subject as a POSTnote entitled “Climate Change and UK Wildfire”. This has been compiled by Lauren Shotter and Jonathan Wentworth from evidence provided by a range of stakeholders. Andy Moffat was delighted to be asked to be involved in this process and also to act as an External Reviewer of the Note.
The POSTnote can be downloaded HERE. Its main findings are that wildfires are becoming a significant hazard in the UK, almost certainly because climate change is increasing their frequency. It identifies that the responsibility for managing wildfire risk is shared between a number of government departments and other stakeholders, most importantly the land owners themselves. It concludes that better wildfire prevention could be achieved through landscape management.
In December 2018, A J Moffat & Associates were asked to review the evidence for current management of veteran beech trees at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, from an environmental perspective. The City of London Corporation, which sponsored the work, were particularly interested in how management operations such as ‘halo clearance’ might impact on soil and water relationships. The review also examined likely effects of atmospheric pollution and increasing drought risk on the veteran trees. The report, which can be downloaded HERE, concluded that halo clearance was compatible with enhancing moisture supply to the trees, but that wholesale clearance was likely to be detrimental to tree condition. It makes several recommendations to optimize veteran tree retention as the climate becomes warmer and drier in this part of Britain.
This year Britain has suffered some very large wildfires, including those on Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District National Park and Winter Hill in Lancashire. Elsewhere in Europe, wildfires have been responsible for considerable damage, including loss of life, and there is now a growing awareness that more must be done to prevent wildfires occurring – fire-fighting resources are being increasingly stretched and the army was called in to support Fire & Rescue Services in the UK this year. The experience in 2018 appears similar to that in 2017. The EU have just published an annual summary of forest fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa in that year. Wildfires
burnt over 1.2 million ha in the EU and killed 127 people including both fire fighters and civilians. The position in the UK is somewhat unclear because wildfire data are not available. However, Andy Moffat’s contribution to this review suggests that serious wildfires in Britain have become more common in recent years although it remains unclear if a trend of increasing wildfire will continue into the future. Further work will examine to what extent current fire policy is adequate to ensure prevention activities become effective in reducing wildfire risk.
The Petersfield Society i-Tree Eco Survey Project was announced the winner of the prestigious Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Hampshire 2018 Countryside Award in the Community & Voluntary category at an uplifting ceremony in Winchester on 18 September. Andy Moffat, the Project Manager, and Robin Hart, the Petersfield Tree Warden, were presented with the winner’s plaque by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson Esq.
Jessica Hughes, one of the judges, introduced the award, saying “The Petersfield Society Tree Survey, driven solely by volunteers, has touched the whole community and provided a robust and comprehensive view of the environmental, social and economic value the trees of Petersfield contribute to their community. This citizen science initiative has attracted the interest of Westminster and will play an important role in influencing green infrastructure planning within the local council and South Downs National Park. The initiative also provides a valuable blueprint for other communities looking to protect and understand the value of their green assets’.
The i-Tree Eco survey is currently being used as a platform from which to develop a Tree Strategy and Action Plan for the town. Andy Moffat is again Project Manager for this initiative. It is hoped that the Tree Strategy will be published in 2019.