Article - Tree Planting Mittigation

September 07, 2018

And now some good news the HS2 tree planting mitigation has just begun!  
For the millions of trees which will be cut down to pave the way for the notorious high-speed rail project, HS2 have pledged to replant 7 million. Crowders Nursery up in Yorkshire has been busy growing thousands of native species of oak, hornbeam and alder soon to be flourishing in Hillingdon in once empty fields. Wonderful news we cry, time to stop protesting and give HS2 a pat on the back!  Now I don’t consider myself an unreasonable person but sadly, delving beneath the surface of HS2’s famous statement ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ we uncover that the reality is not quite as it appears to be.
Tree planting at Dews Lane is one of several local sites for ecological mitigation. But what is surprising is that these young trees appear to have been rather densely packed together, easily noticeable when compared with the adjoining woodland. This planting density immediately raises questions to their growth and wellbeing, so my first port of call is to approach the HS2 help desk for more information, they said: At woodland ride edges (Dews Lane) 1m average centres are likely to be used with an anticipated tree planting density figure of 10,000 trees per hectare’.  
This density figure 10,000 trees per hectare is shocking to say in the least. HS2’s tree replacement programme at Dews Lane classifies this area as ordinary scrub land giving it little ecological importance. Habitats that are typically created for nature conservation would have a planting density of between 1100 – 1500 of trees per hectare and there is an enormous difference here.  When trees are planted it is common practice to plant more than would make it into adulthood as trees are routinely thinned  removing less desirable damaged trees, but when trees are planted at 1m spacings they will be increased competition for water nutrients and sunlight and it is certain that a very large percentage of these tress will have to be felled.
Colne Valley is a species rich nature reserve with a high ecological and conservation value and I question why HS2 are not prioritising and implementing the strictest mitigation measures for nature conservation. We can hazard a guess as to why HS2 have squeezed so many trees into such little space and my bet is, that it is just another exercise to report figures that look good on the table. To state that seven million trees will be planted sounds good to anyone but is grossly misleading when the expected survival rate is immediately halved at best making the reality of ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ into an increasing mockery. 
There is no compensation for the cutting down of mature trees especially our ancient woodland. We cannot mitigate for hundreds and hundreds of years of developing ecology, there is no such thing. Climate change is upon us right now and Colne Valley, known as the green lungs of London plays an important role in absorbing toxic air from heavily polluted London which remains in breach of European air quality laws. Air pollution is now a contributor in the deaths of nearly 10,000 people across the capital per year. Can we really afford to wait 50 years for a fraction of these trees to mature? Every effort for environmental preservation must be taken now.

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