Call to action - protect and cherish nature's ancient giants
Ancient trees have stood witness to history for hundreds, even thousands, of years. They are remarkable and rare and provided us with beautiful landscapes, historical monuments and a wealth of wildlife. These trees are home for our most endangered wildlife and as the oldest living representatives of their species they are rare in their own right. They are under threat as never before from development, neglect, intensive agriculture and forestry.
It is estimated that the UK has approximately 80 per cent of northern Europe's ancient trees. The Woodland Trust, Ancient Tree Forum and the Tree Register have developed a provisional list of significant sites for internationally important old growth communities in lowland Britain and Ireland. This list currently comprises only approximately 50 sites with more than 100 ancient trees. Very few sites with up to a 100 ancient trees have adequate protection. Many more sites and trees are yet to be 'discovered'.
Today, the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading woodland conservation charity, and the Ancient Tree Forum (ATF), are issuing a series of challenges to governments, conservation and heritage organisations and individuals to help secure a future for our ancient trees.
The Woodland Trust and the ATF are calling for the introduction of new policies to safeguard ancient trees and the prevention of further loss through better protective legislation. Jill Butler, the Woodland Trust's ancient tree specialist, explains: 'We need to find ways to extend and buffer important populations of ancient trees as well as improve financial support to encourage better care. We also need people's skills and knowledge to be developed so that the trees can be properly looked after and the ancient trees of tomorrow are nurtured as well.'
As a priority to promote better awareness of the trees, an authoritative nationwide map of ancient trees is re quired. Ted Green of the Ancient Tree Forum says: 'A comprehensive map of ancient trees would help us to monitor threats and to put resources where they are most needed. An inventory would help us to raise awareness of the most important historic landscapes for trees. The conservation and protection of ancient trees is, for me, our one single, biggest obligation to European biodiversity.'
The Woodland Trust:The Woodland Trust is the UK's leading woodland conservation charity. It has 250,000 members and supporters. The trust has four key aims: i) No further loss of ancient woodland; ii) Restoring and improving the biodiversity of woods; iii) Increasing new native woodland; iv) Increasing people's understanding and enjoyment of woodland. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres).