The humble tree is the ultimate multi-tasker

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Jersey Electricity explains why community planting schemes are so important for biodiversity and supporting carbon sequestration

THE urgent need to combat climate change has been more evident than ever this year with record temperatures recorded both here and in the UK.

In the UK, a new high of 40.3 °C was recorded during July’s intense heatwave, prompting the Met Office to issue its first-ever ‘red’ danger-to-life heat warning.

Dr Mark McCarthy, of the National Climate Information Centre, said: ‘In a climate unaffected by human-induced climate change, it would be virtually impossible for temperatures in the UK to reach 40 °C but climate change is already making UK heatwaves more frequent, intense and long-lasting.’

Jersey saw its record of 36 °C smashed by 1.9 °C on 18 July when the mercury reached 37.9 °C, leading nine schools to close entirely, while a further 17 locked up at lunchtime.

Wildfires raged through Europe in August burning the second-largest area on record, according to the European Union’s Joint Research Centre, forcing thousands to evacuate and destroying homes and businesses.

Currently in Pakistan, around 33 million people, including 16 million children, have been affected by heavy monsoon rains, which have brought devastating floods and landslides. Major rivers have breached their banks and dams have overflowed, destroying homes, farms and critical infrastructure.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that global temperatures need to be kept from rising by more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels but we have already passed 1 °C and some experts predict that we are on track for an increase of between 3 °C and 4 °C by 2100.

Carbon emissions are the main driver of climate change. Cutting them and capturing what we have already emitted into the atmosphere is imperative. Using less energy and using low-carbon energy – such as Jersey’s nuclear, hydro and solar-generated electricity for heating and transport – could slash local emissions, leading to a better future for Islanders.

But what about carbon capture? Technologies are being explored but they are expensive and complex. The humble tree is the ultimate multi-tasker when it comes to carbon capture and storage.

A young wood of native species can lock up more than 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare because the entire woodland ecosystem – including the living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and associated vegetation – locks up carbon.

Trees also prevent flooding, reduce temperatures and pollution in built-up areas and keep soil nutrient-rich to promote biodiversity. Unfortunately, just 13% of the UK’s land area is covered by trees compared with an EU average of 37%, according to the Woodland Trust. Here in Jersey, tree cover was estimated at just 7% in 2010. That is why Jersey Electricity is funding the planting of thousands of trees in various projects across the Island.

Mourier Valley

The biggest to date has been Mourier Valley where, since 2019, JE has co-founded with Jersey Water a £40,000 project to plant, alongside the National Trust, Jersey Trees for Life and hundreds of volunteers, almost 4,300 trees over 23.5 vergées (4.2 hectares) adjoining existing ancient woodland at the bottom of the valley.

The 13 mainly native species planted comprise 1,000 common oak, ash, sweet chestnut, hazel, wild cherry, bird cherry, silver birch, larch and sallow, selected to suit the exposed conditions, alongside rowan, Scots pine, Monterey pine and black pine to provide additional resources for birds and local wildlife.

Hautlieu Tiny Forest

Last year we partnered with the Government of Jersey to fund Jersey’s first carbon-absorbing Tiny Forest at Hautlieu School. Along with Jersey Trees for Life and students, we planted 600 trees in a tennis-court-sized plot. The method means the trees will grow ten times faster than traditional planting, generating 100 times more biodiversity and absorbing up to 30 times more carbon.

St Clement Parish Earth Partnership

Earlier this year, St Clement became the first parish to plant for our Parish Earth Partnership for which we’ve offered £5,000 per site to densely plant and maintain a small plot with native trees to increase biodiversity and aid carbon sequestration over the long term. Around 40 parishioners, supported by two teams of Jersey Electricity employees, planted almost 1,000 whips in a large meadow behind St Clement’s Parish Church.

Bouley Bay

Looking ahead, our next big planting project is at Bouley Bay where, again in partnership with the National Trust for Jersey, we will be funding and helping to plant trees on a site kindly gifted to the trust by Rupert and Anna Bradstock to celebrate the Queen’s Green Canopy.

JE chief executive Chris Ambler said: ‘We fully support Jersey’s target to become net-zero by 2050 and believe local sequestration is of greater benefit to our Island than international carbon offsets as the investment remains within the local community.

‘We know everyone wants to play their part in the battle against climate change, the impact of which we are already clearly seeing. Community planting schemes like these are an important and ideal way to engage Islanders and affect lasting improvements to Jersey’s environment by increasing biodiversity and, over the longer term, aid carbon sequestration.’

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