Trees have a vital role in the battle to overcome climate change.

They absorb carbon dioxide and contribute much to biodiversity across the planet 

The true complexity of how trees operate is revealed in a fascinating new book The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us if We Let Them, by German forester and teacher Peter Wohlleben.

Wohlleben describes the intricate, interdependent world of the ancient woodlands. How trees are linked together and provide mutual support. The connected fungi and microorganisms. 

More than 50% of the ancient woodlands have been lost in the UK.

Wohlleben is very critical of the forestry industry. Many of the old deciduous forests have been cleared, being replaced with conifers and other timber producing, trees.

Cutting down the trees, destroys the forests as carbon sinks and sources of cooling. Then, many of the trees cut go to create wood pellets for fuel, thereby releasing more carbon. 

Wohlleben's answers really come from the rewilding school of thought, namely to leave the ancient woodlands that remain alone to regenerate. Then, when planting new trees to make sure the type and conditions are right to replicate what has gone before. 

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Paul Donovan is concerned about the number of trees being felledPaul Donovan is concerned about the number of trees being felled

What is heartening is to see how forest lands are managed in the local area. The fantastic trees in local woodlands like Wanstead Park, Bushwood and Hainault Forest are all managed in the sustainable style.

When trees fall or have to be felled, they are left to become part of the regenerative process. Insects, fungi and much else vital to progressing the biodiversity prosper. It becomes a virtuous circle.

We do have some fantastic trees around, with some really ancient trees in Hainault and Epping Forests. 

The challenge going forward is how to expand the tree cover. It is something being promoted by the Mayor of London. There has been much planting of new areas in Redbridge. This work must be ongoing, it also has to be done in an appropriate way that gives the time and longevity to be of real biodiverse value.

But also remember the best way of advancing woodland is to leave what is already there alone. Trees are great at regenerating and spreading, when left to their own devices.  Let the woods regenerate and spread. In the end, they might just save us all.

  • Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council and a blogger (