"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

The missing link in tree planting schemes

To slow climate change and restore dwindling wildlife populations, the UK government goals to extend the country's forest cover by 13% and plant enough trees. 20% by 2050. Creating healthy forests on this scale is a large challenge, but foresters have developed guidelines that, if followed, should give these recent habitats the best likelihood of success.

This is de facto vital The right tree are planted in the appropriate places. Choosing trees which might be suitable for the habitat means they are going to grow higher, be less prone to disease, and supply loads of food and habitat for other organisms, comparable to lichens and insects.

It is equally vital to avoid planting trees within the flawed places. Preventing the planting of trees on grasslands and wetlands protects, and supports, the unique species they contain. Large carbon stocks of their soil.

Despite containing detailed plans to create healthy forests for plants and animals, there may be a glaring omission in the brand new afforestation policy. For example within the UK government Action Plan for Trees – Arguably an important document on the country's recent forestry agenda – it makes no mention of fungi.

Fungi belong to a very separate kingdom of life from plants and animals and are present in every habitat on Earth. Beneficial mycorrhizal Fungi form close relationships with trees, growing around or inside their roots. These fungi harvest nutrients comparable to nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil and deliver them to the tree in exchange for carbon-rich sugars produced through photosynthesis.

The fungal mycelium reaches the soil through the plant roots.

Trees use their nutrients to make essential compounds comparable to chlorophyll, and fungi convert their sugars into long-term storage within the soil that may sustain them. 20% of carbon raised by trees. Fungi also control much of the decomposition in forests, breaking down compounds from leaves and dead wood that no other organisms can digest. Without fungi, forest systems simply wouldn't function.

Fungus amongst us

Fungal friends in forests mustn't be missed. To help guide those involved in making a recent woodland, our New paper Fungi offers several ways to make forests and the people in them healthier.

We need to maximise the advantages of useful fungi by protecting fungal diversity. Ancient forests And Experienced trees They are vital habitats for a lot of vital and rare fungi. Their wealthy fungal communities can disperse and colonize recent forests, helping to develop friendly mycorrhizal and decomposer networks in the brand new forests.

A large, white mass that is dark and beard-like in texture at the base of a tree.
The bearded tooth fungus is a legally protected species within the UK.

Researchers don't know enough about what happens to fungi within the soil once we plant trees. We have no idea what species were present before the trees were planted and whether or not they modified afterwards. This means we still don't know easy methods to maximize the advantages of fungi for tree health.

To enhance our understanding, we recommend estimating the population of the fungus. Proposed and existing forest sites. As well as helping to maintain trees healthy and store carbon, it would also create an inventory of fungi which might be prone to extinction and permit for legal protection.

This is significant, because the study of fungi is hampered by the shortage of legal protections for the species. Without policies to require surveys and studies of fungi, we may never discover which species may also help us store more carbon in forests, which may cause tree diseases, and whether these fungi can quickly It is prone to turn out to be extinct. There are only 4 forms of fungi. Legally protected in Great Britain, but there are lots of other vital species within the country, including A globally rare grassland fungus. As with other groups of organisms, we imagine that a red list of fungal species which might be at risk of extinction needs to be drawn up.

Along with useful fungi, there are fungi that could cause problems. Fungal diseases Like Ash dieback Not only does it affect the population of trees but Hundreds of other organisms which depend upon trees for survival.

A thin, yellow tree trunk with brown spots.
Ash dieback is anticipated to kill around 80% of the UK's ash trees.
PJ Photography/Shutterstock

To reduce the risks of tree diseases, it will be important. Monitor They emerge and spread in existing forests in addition to in tree seeds and seedlings. Incorporating fungal spores into weather and pollen forecasts may also help prepare vulnerable people living near recent forests to scale back the risks to humans from woodland fungal spores, which may exacerbate respiratory diseases. may be found

Remembering fungi on this recent era of woodland creation will enable our forests and the people in them to be as healthy and resilient as possible.

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