A group of 42 experts and over 1,200 specialists have raised a serious alarm about the potential decline of British woodlands in the next fifty years, according to a study published in the esteemed Forestry journal. Dr. Eleanor Tew, a leading expert in forest planning, stressed the urgency of the situation.

Threats like diseases, severe weather, and wildfires are putting woodlands under significant pressure, with ash dieback disease being a significant risk, and winter storm damage in 2021 underlines the urgency of the issue. Climate forecasts predict an increase in extreme weather events, potentially leading to ecosystem collapse. UK forests are not yet in line with this scenario, but researchers recommend strategic measures like increasing tree species diversity, establishing mixed-age forests, and supporting natural regrowth. Additionally, vigilance against tree pests and diseases is crucial. The repercussions of an ecosystem collapse are extensive, affecting the availability of timber resources, carbon storage, air quality, water retention, and overall human well-being. Prompt and resolute actions are needed to safeguard these vital ecosystems. The seriousness of the situation is highlighted by instances of such collapses in certain European forests. The importance of proactive, forward-thinking forest management strategies cannot be overstated, especially considering the long time it takes for specific tree species to mature. The government’s ambitious plan to significantly increase forest planting is a commendable step in the right direction; however, concerted and sustained efforts are needed to change the current course.