An innovative new mapping tool to promote tree planting has launched in Nidderdale AONB.
The Nidderdale AONB Woodland Opportunity Plan is a set of maps which provide a wealth of environmental data collated by the AONB team over the last decade.
The maps are free tools to help support AONB landowners to plant more trees. They easily locate areas where planting trees could potentially have maximum benefits for the environment. Landowners can also easily see which areas to avoid, where tree planting may cause environmental harm.
Each area of the AONB is given a Woodland Opportunity Score: the higher the score, the better the environmental benefit and the more likelihood that trees – and wildlife - will thrive.
Benefits include increasing the size and resilience of existing woodland, flood management, improving water quality, and providing habitat connections across the landscape so that woodland species can move freely to new areas.
Dr Kelly Harmar, who created the maps in her role as Biodiversity Project Officer at Nidderdale AONB, said: “Woodland cover in the AONB is significantly below the national average and we anticipate losing tree cover over the next decade due to tree disease. We want to stabilise and increase our woodland cover in a way that maximises the environmental benefit and minimises any environmental harm. Our new maps will guide our tree planting advice and help direct woodland funding in the AONB over the next five years”.
The scheme fits with the AONB’s commitment to planting more trees as outlined in its recent State of Nature report - the first detailed assessment of the AONB’s health of its wildlife and habitats.
The Woodland Opportunity Plan has been created by the Nidderdale AONB team with a grant from the Woodland Trust, who are also funding a dedicated Woodland Officer to offer free support to anyone in the AONB who wishes to plant trees. Alice Crosby, who has a MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity, will provide one-to-one support to landowners, helping them to identify suitable areas, suggest the best type of trees to plant, and help source funding to create new woodlands.
Nidderdale AONB is a diverse protected landscape, from windswept moors to steep rivers and tranquil reservoirs.
Alice said: “It’s about planting the right trees in the right location to maximise environmental benefits. An example of good planting would be around existing woodlands to create a new space for wildlife to expand their habitats. Poor planting would be in important habitats such as our heathland and moorlands. These peatland habitats support rare species and contribute significantly in their own right to the UK’s carbon sequestration targets.”
Sian Atkinson, senior outreach manager for the Woodland Trust, said: “The Woodland Trust is delighted to be able to support this innovative project from Nidderdale AONB. We need new native woodland like never before. Government has committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which will require the expansion of the UK’s tree canopy cover from 13 per cent to 17 per cent. To reach that target there needs to be a huge upturn in the amount of woodland being created. Last month we launched the Big Climate Fightback, and working through partnerships we aim to help deliver on the commitment of successfully establishing 50 million trees across the country by 2025 to help tackle the climate change crisis. The Woodland Opportunity Plan will be a great way to support that ambition by providing landowners with fantastic advice about getting more trees in the ground in this part of Yorkshire.”
Kelly added: “We really want to emphasis quality not just quantity. Not every area in the AONB is suitable for tree planting. For the new mapping tool, we have included almost 70 factors – both positive and negative - tailored to the AONB to provide guidance on the best places to plant new trees. We have to take into account, and safeguard, the special landscapes and wildlife unique to Nidderdale AONB.”
The Woodland Opportunity Plan is available as an online interactive map which landowners can use to investigate their landholding. There is also a story map which gives a short outline of the help the AONB can provide to landowners and a comprehensive Woodland Opportunity Plan report, which describes how the mapping was developed.
The tree planting season is traditionally during the winter between November and February.
To view the maps and find out more, go to nidderdaleaonb.org.uk/treeplantingadvice
Notes to editors
The story map explaining the plan is embedded on nidderdaleaonb.org.uk website, and can also be accessed here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/4aca6e85c8e44721b73cf7094753e5bc
The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.
The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.