by Dean Kirkland, Project Manager for Ancient Woodland Restoration
on 19 March 2017
Wood fuel production is not only good for helping reduce our carbon footprint in the fight against climate change it can also help support British wildlife.
Ancient woodlands are precious; they are home to more different types of wildlife than almost any other habitat in the UK. But they’re also under threat. Once it’s gone It’s gone, you can’t recreate ancient woodland, so we’ll never have more than we have today, yet ancient woodland is still being lost at an alarming rate.
Every acre of ancient woodland we have left is important. About 40% of the ancient woodland we have left is also damaged, it has been planted with non-native trees which shade out our native wildlife. While you can’t recreate ancient woodland once it’s been lost completely, you can repair the damaged areas and bring them back.
The problem is that this process of restoration is expensive; it has a cost to the landowner, so to make this work worthwhile and ensure these woods survive into the future there has to be a sustainable economic return for the landowner’s investment.
The International Day of Forests on 21 March is celebrating the part that trees and woods play in energy production. The production of wood fuel is a good way of doing this. Non-native wood that isn’t good enough quality to be made into building timber etc. can still be broken into manageable pieces and sold for fuel, giving the owners the money to kick start the restoration process. Gradually non-native conifers will be replaced by native hardwood trees and as the wood from these burns longer and hotter, it sells for a higher price. This means that the economic return increases as the restoration process moves forward.
Wood fuel is considered to be carbon neutral, although burning wood will release carbon dioxide, one of the main gases involved in climate change, the new hardwood saplings that are growing in these managed woodlands will absorb just as much carbon dioxide as is being released from burning their predecessors, so on balance their will be no change to the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Management of woods for fuel can be a low impact process; it won’t case major disruption and disturbance for the local plants and wildlife, which will start to come back in to the area once the native trees start to take over again. So these woods can retain their status as ancient woodland and continue to provide valuable wildlife habitat, while still giving an economic return for their owners to make sure that they are retained and managed as the woodlands of the future.
By buying FSC certified British wood fuel produced in an environmentally friendly way, you could be helping the fight against climate change, providing a home for wildlife and helping to support local jobs and businesses, all while keeping your home and office warm and comfortable.