By Rachel Orchard, Forest Research
Each tree is like its own planet. From the canopy of each tree, you’re given a new view of the Earth below. From the ground, you can look up into a web of branches that form the contours of its unique terrain. Beyond sight, each tree has its own sensory quirks, just like a planet - with rough or smooth bark, like bumpy or flat ground, and distinct smells, like a mini atmosphere. Looking at a collection of trees is like looking at an arboreal solar system, sometimes with uniform sized tree planets, sometimes with tree planets of all shapes and sizes.
Unlike planets, trees are rooted to the same spot on this Earth. But how did each of these tree planets come to be rooted where they are?
Did a human help by planting a sapling that started its life in a nursery? Or did natural colonisation lead it to its’ rooting spot? The unique history of each tree can be divided into these two methods of establishment, planting or natural colonisation. However, when scaled up to a woodland level, the history of a group of trees could also be a mix of these methods, known as a hybrid approach to establishment. Whatever the scale, it is up to the custodial land managers to choose which of these establishment methods is best suited to the land and their objectives.
The TreE_PlaNat research project, led by University of Stirling and in collaboration with partnering organisations*, is investigating the social and ecological factors behind land manager’s decision-making on these methods for woodland expansion. Here the alternative meaning (and spelling) of ‘PlaNat’ refers to the methods of Planting and Natural colonisation. As a social scientist at Forest Research, I work on the social side of the project and we currently have a national survey live to ask all types of land managers about which methods they would choose and why, if they were to expand a patch of woodland.
If you are a land manager, please share your knowledge and experience on the topic by donating 15-20 minutes of your valuable time to complete our survey: https://peopleandtreesurveys.limesurvey.net/593382
Understandably, you may ask why should I?
You must be aware of the ambitious tree planting targets set by UK government. This clearly indicates that the default method for growing more trees is with human assistance, which means most of the policy, grant schemes, and procedures are set up with this method in mind.
This begs the question: what about growing trees naturally? As neutral researchers, we need to know what method land managers would choose because this research will inform the next wave of policy thinking and the ripple effects across funding schemes and practitioners. This will impact the next generation of land managers and the establishment of future arboreal solar systems. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that our results accurately reflect the views of all types of land managers, with many different objectives that would influence their choice of tree establishment method.
To clarify, when I say all types of land managers, we want to hear from anyone that identifies as one of the following:
If you identify as a land manager but do not feel that you fit into one of these categories then there is an ‘other’ box too. Here’s the survey link once more in case you missed it: https://peopleandtreesurveys.limesurvey.net/593382
If you’re not convinced already - there is also a prize draw!
Thank you for helping to shape the future arboreal solar systems! 😊
Laura Braunholtz, Ecology post-doc, University of Stirling