Autumn Budget 2018: Creating green corridors

14th November 2018

Kirsty Peck, on behalf of IEMA Futures, argues that the Budget’s funding for urban tree planting could be used to boost biodiversity in towns and cities

This year’s autumn Budget received some mixed reviews in terms of the environment and sustainability, but what does it mean for biodiversity?

One of the environmental aspects of the Budget was the government’s dedication to increase the number of trees planted. This will be achieved with £10m of funding for street trees and urban trees, and with a Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme, which will aim to support the planting of around 10m trees through the purchasing of £50m carbon credits for tree planting.

Although the primary motive for increasing the tree planting budget is to offset carbon emissions by sequestering more carbon into the plant sink, it is also important in terms of biodiversity. But how could we use the £10m funding for urban tree planting to counteract biodiversity loss in our urban environments?

The continuous growth of urban areas is putting huge stress on the green belt areas of towns and cities. The result is that recreational areas such as parks and gardens are becoming essential to the survival of wildlife. Areas of habitat within the urban environment have also been increasingly fragmented through land-use change, isolating wildlife populations. To allow biodiversity in urban areas to recover, we must reconnect these isolated populations.

The urban tree planting budget could create new green spaces that act as ‘stepping-stones’ or ‘green corridors’ between previously established and now-isolated habitats. The theory of metapopulation dynamics, developed by Richard Levins in 1969, explains the importance of connectivity between habitats; it demonstrates that although no single population can guarantee the long-term survival of a species in a particular area, the collective effect of a number of populations may be able to.

Increasing the connectivity of habitats in urban environments, therefore, has the potential to recover and stabilise populations that are currently in decline by connecting them with other populations of the same species. Using the tree planting budget, we could connect and even save populations that are in decline. This process could be a fundamental part of improving and regaining biodiversity in urban areas.

Is £10m for street trees and urban trees enough to improve urban biodiversity? Probably not. But if the importance of reconnecting isolated populations can be conveyed to the public, it will hopefully encourage people to rewild their own green spaces.

Kirsty Peck is a member of IEMA Futures, a new steering group of young sustainability professionals.

Image credit: iStock


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