What is the impact of deforestation on the UK?

February 27, 2018 Environment , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER , UK

Shauna Leigh Robinson photo



Justin Fox



Deforestation will most likely conjure up haunting images of mile upon mile of tree stumps in a post-apocalyptic landscape that was once previously lush, tropical rainforest. Images often include the jarring depiction of wildlife looking shockingly out of place in their dissonant habitat.


However, deforestation is not just restricted to the Amazon – it is a global problem, and one that the UK is also facing. The Woodland Trust has reported in the past that ancient woodland the size of Birmingham has been lost in the last decade. The rate of this loss is said to be comparable to the rate of forest loss in the Amazon.


England is in fact one of the least wooded nations in Europe. The UK has just 13% woodland, behind Belgium (22.6%) and France (31%).


The impact of deforestation on the environment is vast, it causes:





Changes to climatic conditions


Soil erosion increases leading to flooding and landslides




Displacement of populations



Deforestation is the world’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. More trees are needed to be planted in the UK to create more woodland and forests will provide more wildlife habitat and improve air quality by soaking up emissions and carbon dioxide.


One of the biggest causes of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut down trees to provide more room grazing livestock or planting crops. For example, livestock farming uses over 30% of the world’s farming land and this trend has continued in the UK. Clearing the land in such a way has not only released CO2, but means there are less plants to absorb future emissions.


It’s not only agriculture that threatens the UK’s woodland –  development and infrastructure does too –  35 ancient woods will be directly damaged by the construction of England’s new high-speed rail link, and 27 woodlands will be impacted by the resulting pollution – all because diversion or tunnelling has be found to be too expensive – but at what price?


Present and future destruction of the UK’s woodland also include housing development, golf courses, pylons and airport and road/motorway expansion.


A variety of species from different groups depend upon the ancient woodland in the UK, including birds, bats, butterflies and dormice. Woodland birds such as the willow and marsh tit as well as the pearl-bordered fritillary are known to be drastically declining, and we will lose certain species entirely if the destruction of their habitat continues.


The Woodland Trust has previously warned that tree ‘planting in England has been consistently low’ for a while, with more trees being destroyed than are being planted. In 2016 only 700 hectares were planted against the Government’s target of 5000 hectares a year – so there is clearly a need for drastic change.


The government backing for a new Northern Forest has been applauded. The Northern Forest project will plant 50 million trees and will bring numerous benefits:



Bringing tourism to support rural communities


Improving air quality in towns and cities




Timber production


Mitigating flood risk


Connecting people with nature


Health and wellbeing



While the creation of the Northern Forest is a step in the right direction, we hope that the government are not just using the publicity to reassure people that Brexit will not mean an end to green policies.



What can you do to help?



You can start by supporting local green initiatives such as tree planting – every tree helps.


You can also get involved with campaigns such as those from the Woodland Trust.


It will take a combined effort – from government down to individuals – to protect the UK’s woodland.





Justin Fox

Justin Fox is from North London and believes passionately in a number of environmental causes. With a keen interest in politics and current affairs, he writes for a number of sites about how the two can be combined, so as to enrich our society with forward-thinking and sustainable policies that look to the needs of the future.

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