Devon Local Nature Partnership Planting trees and increasing woodland cover are positive things we can do now in response to the climate emergency and ecological crisis. Trees provide us with lots of benefits, including capturing and storing carbon as they grow, reducing flooding, and providing habitats for thousands of species.
We need to make sure that the right tree is established in the right place, using the right method, for the right reasons, and with the right aftercare. This means increasing tree cover whilst protecting what is special and valued in the landscape and keeping the environmental benefits already being delivered.
While most new tree cover is a positive thing, new trees in the wrong locations could result in unintended negative consequences. For example, establishing trees in wildflower-rich grasslands, heathlands or peatlands, could actually reduce biodiversity in these areas or even release more carbon than will be stored by the planted trees.
Trees and their roots can also damage buried archaeology, historic sites and their settings. Poorly designed monoculture plantations across swathes of land can change the diversity and special qualities of our beautiful Devon landscapes, including wide open spaces and views.
There are lots of things to think about when planning a tree planting or woodland creation scheme. This can seem overwhelming, but guidance and support is available – whether you’re a farmer, landowner, community group, business, agent or an individual planning a tree planting or woodland creation scheme. We hope this guide will provide something for everyone, helping you avoid any unintended negative impacts and design an environmentally sensitive scheme.
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Woodland benefit graphic from DLNP website https://www.devonlnp.org.uk/take-action/right-place-right-tree/
About this Guidance
This guidance is for anyone who would like to help increase tree cover in Devon’s landscape. It takes into account the variety of landscapes we have in Devon today, and presents an inspiring shared vision for how these could change in future if we act now in response to the climate and ecological emergency.
The vision encompasses many different ways of increasing tree cover, including re-creating lost landscape features (such as hedges, orchards, and connected woodlands), creating new climate-resilient productive woodlands, and identifying sites where trees can be allowed to re-establish naturally.
Some of these actions are encouraged almost anywhere, whilst others require more careful consideration and consultation. Things to look out for are highlighted, including what you must do, depending on the type and scale of your project.
The guidance takes you through a step-by-step process – from considering the possibilities and reasons for new trees and woodland in your chosen landscape, through to finding the right place, choosing the right method for establishing trees, choosing the right species and designing your scheme to fit into the landscape.
The guidance also signposts you to more detailed national and local guidance and sources of information. This includes a version of the Devon County Council Environment Viewer that has been pre-set to help you spot environmental sensitivities and considerations for woodland planting.
Links to other websites are provided throughout, including where to find further information and funding advice as well as further advice on ongoing care and maintenance
Devon's Landscapes Today
Woodland cover in Devon is currently approx. 9.9% of land area, but varies considerably across the county as shown by forestry commission maps. This compares to 10% across England.
Trees, hedges and woodlands are characteristic in Devon’s diverse and valued landscapes and are the result of many natural and human influences over time.
Landscapes are dynamic – constantly changing in response to natural processes and human actions – so the landscapes we see today are a snapshot in time, and the decisions we make today will impact on the landscapes of the future.
Devon’s landscapes contain many different types of trees, as well as ecological habitats and cultural heritage sites, and are appreciated for their beauty and ‘sense of place’.
Step by step process to establishing more trees
Follow this step by step guide to help you get the right tree in the right place, and avoid any unintended negative impacts on Devon’s wildlife, landscapes and people.
- Identify your objectives Start by thinking about what you would like to achieve by establishing more trees. These could be economic, environmental, or social objectives – perhaps a balance between all three. Is it to enhance biodiversity, to help prevent flooding, a commercial enterprise, a community initiative, or something else?
- Follow key principles Following these principles will help your scheme to achieve multiple benefits for the wider environment, ecology, heritage, visual landscape, and people whilst being fit for purpose in meeting your objectives. It will also help to minimise the risk of unintended consequences from planting the wrong tree in the wrong place.
- Check for potential sensitivities There are some locations where planting trees (or allowing them to regenerate) could cause harm to existing valued habitats, heritage, or landscapes. It is therefore essential that you check your site for potential sensitivities before commencing any scheme of any size. This section shows you how.
- Choose the right place A tree in the right place fits comfortably into its landscape surroundings. Getting a tree in the right place is not an accident – it’s about responding to the character and history of the landscape in positive ways, which can inspire creation of our future landscapes. It’s also about identifying where we can encourage landscapes to be dynamic and evolve through natural regeneration of trees, scrub, and woodland.
- Choose the right tree Choosing the right tree species for your site will help it to thrive, look right, and provide a positive contribution to habitats. This section helps you to decide whether planting or natural regeneration would be better for your site, and – if you decide to plant – which species to select.
- Find further information and funding if needed There are many further sources of information to help you get the right tree in the right place, including information on specific topics, for example, hedges, orchards, natural flood management and natural regeneration.
- Put your scheme into practice This section provides information on getting your scheme off the ground – doing the detailed design and making sure that the trees which you are planting are free from pests and diseases.