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Thinking green and planting trees

Reforestation and afforestation are two key components that will help to stimulate the decarbonisation of Greater Manchester.

Worldwide, the realisation that trees have much more value than simply providing timber has become apparent in recent years: they keep soils moist, mitigate against flood risk, and have the potential to provide urban landscapes with cleaner air and fight against pollution.

China plans to build its very own ‘forest city’ – Liuzhou Forest City, in the mountainous area of Guangxi. The ambitious plan features towers covered entirely in plants, leaves and shrubbery, hosting 40,000 trees and almost 1 million plants in total.

Similarly, China has recently reassigned 60,000 soldiers to plant trees, in an impressive bid to combat the country’s growing pollution problem.

The UK might not be quite so ambitious, but organisations such as Greater Manchester's City of Trees are working tirelessly to pioneer the green movement. City of Trees is on a mission to plant 3million trees, one for every man, woman and child living in Greater Manchester, within a generation, and has already planted 232,668 trees just 2 years after it was established.

Although the benefits are sometimes tricky to quantify, trees and urban greening will play a key role in the future in reducing the concentration of harmful pollutants (such as PM10) in our air.

Similarly, the availability of carbon sinks will be increased, further improving air quality in our cities. and helping Manchester to become a zero-carbon city by 2050.

On a national scale, Britain’s recently announced its 25-Year Environment Plan, which includes forest creation and the delivery of one million urban trees across the UK.

In the plan, the development of a new ‘Northern Forest’, which will spread from Liverpool to The Humber, adjacent to the M62, was introduced. Planting is due to begin in Bolton in March 2018. Using £5.7 million of government funding, support will be given to the existing partnership of the Community Forests and the Woodland Trust, to further accelerate the process.

In total, the proposal aims to plant 62,000 acres in a project forecast to cost £500m over 25 years. In contrast, the Chinese plan to plant close to 21 million acres of forest is expected to complete by the end of this year (that’s roughly the size of Ireland!).

So, what is the best way to re-plant? The right technique to planting trees is arguably just as important as mass tree planting, which is often known for being costly and poorly managed.

A system known as agro-forestry is proving itself. Here, trees and shrubs will be grown among crops, often on poor, degraded forest land, which can, consequently, be revitalised.

Ultimately an ecologically sound and more sustainable land-use system is created, providing an easy incentive for landowners to plant trees. However, the suitability of agroforestry in urban zones could still be questioned.