The State of the UK’s Woods and Trees 2021 report came out earlier this year. Now you may wonder what that has to do with us here in Cumbernauld? It was based on UK trees. We are only a small town with lots of woodland so we are ok – aren’t we?

Well, no, we’re not really. The Cumbernauld Living Landscape Project team keep going on about the importance of native woodlands in our town, because although non-natives can help us with climate change in urban areas over the short term there is a very fine balance to be achieved to make sure they don’t harm our wildlife in the longer term.

Many think that we should leave our woodlands ‘as nature intended’, to cope on their own. The problem with that is that our woodlands have always been heavily influenced by people all the way back to the end of the ice age. Our woodlands haven’t coped on their own for nearly 10,000 years. We have been cutting down native trees; planting this and that, thinking because it looks good that it is; and introducing non-native species, which place a tremendous strain on our own biodiversity. The simple fact of the matter is that our woodlands are in serious trouble, and we need to correct this issue now or we are at risk of losing them. We are learning this through science, building a greater understanding year after year and acting on it to reverse the damage.

The Woodlands Trust report states that only 7% of the UK’s native woodlands are in good condition. Healthy woodlands need a mosaic of habitats – some open spaces, some dead wood lying on the ground, gaps between the trees to allow them to thrive and let light onto the woodland floor. Dense plantations of non-native conifers can’t deliver this – and many woodland species of plants, insects, birds and mammals suffer as a result. Trees brought in from abroad can also bring deadly diseases that decimate our own species – like Dutch elm disease in the seventies, and now ash dieback, which may kill over 80% of our beautiful ash trees.

All of which has a profound effect on us too! Biodiversity – the variety of all living things on the planet, has been found to be directly influential to our health and wellbeing. There is science behind what we need to do. We are in a Climate and Nature Emergency, and the time is critical in which we can change our habits. Will you help support the change?

Ash dieback Hymenoscyphus fraxineus
The once leafy ash trees are now ghostly, bare and dying from a fungal disease spreading throughout the UK from imported trees

Tracy Lambert