Research by the Woodland Trust has revealed that the total area of ancient woodland threatened by destruction or degradation over the last decade has covered a total of 100 square miles (26,000 hectares) – equivalent to the size of Birmingham!
In the last 10 years we have discovered over 800 woods threatened by all forms of development from roads, housing and airports to power lines, gas pipes and golf courses. Right now we are dealing with over 400 cases of woods under threat from development. This level of destruction or degradation is extremely worrying because ancient woodland is our richest habitat for wildlife and completely irreplaceable. Ancient woods cover only 2.4% of the country and are the UK’s equivalent of the rainforest.
You would think a habitat so special, so important would be protected and theoretically ancient woods are protected in national planning policies. The problem is local councils are allowed to ignore national policy and develop an ancient wood if they believe social and economic benefits of that development outweigh the benefits of keeping the woodland. It stands to reason that if a council wants a development to go ahead they will be able to “find” some economic or social reason why the development is important. This means priceless ancient woods are lost to short term economic gains.
Often you hear of plans to “compensate” for the loss of ancient woodland by planting new woods but this simply can’t be done – centuries of undisturbed soils and seedbanks are protected in these habitats and planting new trees just can not make up for their loss.
The Woodland Trust needs everyone to act as our eyes and ears on the ground – find out where you local ancient woodland is and keep an eye out for any signs of development threats to the wood – if you hear of any let us know by visiting www.woodwatch.org.uk and get out there and organise a local campaign against the plans. We know that if you are early enough you can stop this destruction.
- Visit www.woodwatch.org.uk for maps, guides, information and resources to help you fight threats to ancient woods
- Watch our film promoting WoodWatch and forward it to your friends and colleagues – http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=IXdTsPuatOc
- Read an article in the Guardian and another in the Telegraph about WoodWatch