Forests are one of nature’s most important ecosystems. They provide shelter and food not only for a diverse range of animal and plant life, but also for 1.6 billion humans. Beyond economic and food security, forests also serve as the lungs of the planet as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Aside from converting carbon dioxide into oxygen during photosynthesis, forests also act as a carbon sinkby storing carbon in dead trees, leaves and soil. Scientists estimate that as much as 18% of fossil fuel-emitted carbon dioxide are absorbed by forests annually.
UK currently has approximately 12 million square miles of wooded area, accounting for 12.9% of the country’s land surface; this is about a third of the average of European countries (38%).
Most of the deforestation in UK, particularly England, occurred during World War I and II, where timber was used extensive in transportation, lodging and vessels. At its nadir in 1919, only 5% of the country was covered in wooded area. It was at this time that the Forestry Commission was created to manage forest areas, a vital national resource, in the country.
While the agency’s efforts have seen forest coverage growing to a record 12.9%, there are fears that forest growth has reached a peak. In 2016, activists voiced out concerns that only 700 hectares of new forest had been planted, well below the 5,000 hectares annual target.
Similar concerns were voiced in 2018 as only 1,500 hectares of trees were planted, still far short of the target. Some believe that poor planting rates, as well as natural woodland losses, means the country is possibly under net deforestation.
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