Half of trees in Suffolk and Essex lost since 1850, study finds

Extinction Rebellion protesters gathered in Thurston to protest against Persimmon Homes after an oak

More than half of Suffolk and Essex's trees have been lost since 1850  - Credit: Archant

Half of the trees in Suffolk and Essex have been lost since 1850, as the Woodland Trust warns Britain is approaching a "crisis point" from environmental threats.

According to a recent study of Ordnance Survey maps by the Woodland Trust, both counties have lost half of their trees during the last 170 years – while just 7% of UK woodlands are now said to be in a good ecological condition.

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The stark findings have led the trust to warn the country faces a crisis point of habitat damage, climate change and nitrogen pollution – with woodland a natural defence to curb carbon emissions and reverse declines in wildlife.

In light of the report’s findings, the conservation charity called for efforts to quadruple woodland creation, restore ancient woods, remove invasive species such as rhododendron at a landscape scale and tackle air pollution.

The charity is also calling for legally binding targets in the Environment Bill.

Nationally, woods are slowly recovering – although woodland bird numbers are down 29% since 1970, butterflies down 41% since 1990 and plants down by 18% since 2015.

The two-year project by the Environment Agency and Suffolk Wildlife Trust to plant trees along the Rivers Gipping and Rat

More than 900 trees were planted in Suffolk during a two-year project by the Environment Agency and Suffolk Wildlife Trust  - Credit: Environment Agency

The Government has plans to plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025, while the planting of 900 trees along the River Gipping and its tributaries were completed last month. 

Protests against the cutting of trees in Suffolk have occurred in recent years, with Extinction Rebellion activists running to the defence of an oak tree in Thurston, while demonstrations have also been held in Stowmarket and Sizewell. 

Abi Bunker, director of conservation and external affairs at the Woodland Trust, said the warning signs in the report are "loud and clear".

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Ms Bunker said: “If we don’t tackle the threats facing our woods and trees, we will severely damage the UK’s ability to address the climate and nature crises.

"We take them for granted because of their longevity, they are resilient and they have been resilient over millennia, some of them, and hundreds of years, but there’s only so much they can cope with.

“They are approaching crisis point, and we need – even if just for our own survival as a human race – to take note and do something about it now.”

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