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White Rose Forest Action Plan

By 17 November 2021No Comments

White Rose ForestThe White Rose Forest (WRF) Community Forest today sets out its Action Plan for tree planting and woodland creation across West and North Yorkshire between 2021 – 2025. Over this time the partnership aims to create over 3,500 hectares of new woodlands, including 1,000 hectares of urban tree canopy via the Green Streets® scheme and 2,500 hectares of targeted planting to reduce flood risk.

Beyond this time, the partnership aspires to help increase the region’s tree canopy cover from 11% to 19%. This will involve the creation of an extra 80,000 hectares of woodlands by 2050 – but how much carbon is this level of tree planting likely to take up, and how significant will that be as we try to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the UK?

Planting trees alone will not be enough to limit climate change but it can play a role alongside deep cuts to the sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership are both aiming to reach a net-zero level of emissions during the 2030s. If progress towards decarbonisation is made in line with these regional ambitions, planting trees now can have a big impact by taking up some of the remaining, or “residual”, emissions leftover in the coming decades. Of course, carbon is only one of the reasons to plant trees and restore or create woodlands; there are many other benefits including positive impacts on our mental and physical health, habitat creation, and the management of water across our landscapes.

Front cover of introduction document
The UBoC team at the University of Leeds was commissioned by the White Rose Forest to assess how much carbon could potentially be removed from the atmosphere by tree planting across West and North Yorkshire region. Our report, “Informing a carbon-based tree planting strategy for the White Rose Forest” (summarised here), lays out the potential carbon sequestration achieved by varying levels of afforestation, using indicative woodland mixtures, across the thirteen local authorities in the WRF region. The study demonstrates that new woodland creation of at least 2,800 hectares per year across the WRF region is likely to be required to sequester up to half of the region’s remaining CO2 emissions in 2050, assuming that emissions reduce in line with current regional and national ambitions.

The report also highlights the important role played by trees outside woodlands in West and North Yorkshire. These are the trees in our parks and gardens, and alongside our streets, whose role is often overlooked. We found that these trees occupy around 40 % of the region’s total canopy cover but because they are difficult to count and measure, the carbon they store and sequester is rarely considered. Our pilot study demonstrates that they may collectively store the equivalent of over 10 megatonnes of CO2 and take up around 360 kilotonnes CO2 per year.

The main report is supported by a technical appendix that details the methods and data used. Please contact UBoC directly for further information and support with using this information: info@uboc.co.uk. You can also contact the White Rose Forest directly for information about how you can get involved in delivering the Action Plan.