Where does your carbon contribution go?
Through our carbon contribution scheme, we invite clients to contribute £5 per passenger which is used to plant broad leaved trees in Cumbria, UK. This winter our UK office team will don hats and gloves and helped Pete Leeson and his team plant six+hundred trees which will be managed into maturity.
We met up with Pete and asked him to tell us more about the project we will be contributing towards this winter
‘This year we’re working on a large scale project around the base of Skiddaw, the large mountain to the north of Keswick. We’re working with farmers to improve how they manage land here. This means planting woodlands, building new fences, gateways and farm infrastructure to assist with managing grazing patterns. All these things have benefits for the wider environment.
Over the next 3-4 years we will be planting 10,000 trees as part of the project.’
I asked how farming methods in the UK, and more locally in Cumbria, have evolved to have a negative impact on the environment and so need the assistance of the Woodland Trust and other organisations?
‘This is a huge subject but briefly, farmers are responsible for managing about 75% of the UK’s surface area, land that we perceive to be the ‘countryside’. However, over the years, mechanization has meant bigger and bigger farms with less hedgerows and trees. The drive for productivity has meant more land being cleared of trees and planted with crops. Over the years we have selected the most productive varieties of important cereals such as wheat meaning there is very little variety in species growing over acres of land. And no variety in species means no variety in wildlife.’
‘Trees used to cover the valleys and hills of the UK, binding the soil together whilst maintaining its porosity meaning that rain was absorbed, filtered and slowly fed into streams and rivers. Now in Cumbria large tracts of land have been deforested and are managed as sheep farms. The many tiny hooves compact soil meaning during standard rainfall, water runs over the surface taking soil with it rather than being absorbed. This soil ends up in rivers making them acidic and killing fish and invertebrates and in high rainfall events, water that can’t seep into the land can cause flooding.
‘We’re working with farmers to find ways to make small changes to their farming methods that don’t reduce productivity but actually increase it over time.’
Sadly soil loss is a huge societal issue. Tens of thousands of tonnes of soil gets washed into the sea which is bad for the sea as it gets loaded with nutrients, phosphates and nitrogen, and it’s bad for farms as this is what keeps them functioning. Soil stores carbon too, it’s important that we look after it!
So what’s happening to improve farming methods in the UK?
‘We’re planting new hedgerows and working hard to maintain existing ones. Hedgerows provide shelter for livestock throughout the year and their roots break up the soil which becomes much more absorbent. They are good nectar sources for bees too and their berries feed a large number of different species from bats to dormice.
‘We’re planting single field trees – huge oaks that will grow up to 30 meters across and which provide a habitat for more organisms, and especially insects, than any other tree! Insects are a valuable food source for birds and bats in the summer and we need all these species to fertilize crops and manage disease.
‘We’re identifying wet, unproductive areas that harbour the snail that causes liver fluke. We’re drying them up which reduces the prevalence of the liver fluke and planting trees that provide shelter to livestock.
‘We’re also identifying areas that can be fenced off and planted with trees to protect water courses. Trees provide shelter and help maintain water temperature – a stable water temperature is essential for fish and invertebrates to thrive and they also benefit from the nutrients provided by the leaf litter.
‘Hedgerows, single field trees and areas planted with trees all have the effect of breaking up the soil and helping water to percolate. Percolation cleans water meaning water companies have to spend less to make our drinking water clean and water that percolates reaches streams more slowly, reducing the risk of flooding.
So, you have lots of different approaches. In a nutshell, what are you trying to achieve?
‘Our aims are to create an environment with lots more trees in a way that works hand in hand with farming methods in the UK. We are working to improve water management (cleaner water and less risk of flooding), improve soils and provide food and homes for wildlife.
So, looking forward, what’s the plan for Archipelago Choice this winter?
We’re going to be planting more trees locally, which means we’ll be digging holes and planting alder, birch, rowan, crab apple and cherry trees.
We can’t wait!