Today’s Solutions: October 05, 2022

An impressive project taken up by researchers at the University of Nottingham is revealing the secret hiding places of England’s ancient and veteran trees—and it turns out that the country is hosting ten times as many as experts had thought.

Conservationists compare the researcher’s efforts, which build on the 180,000 mapped trees that were identified by the Woodland Trust, Ancient Tree Forum, and the Tree Register, to “a map of buried treasure.” 

To find the additional ancient and veteran trees, the researchers experimented with mathematical models to map the probable location of ancient trees across the nation. Then, volunteers went out into the field to visit these sites and check the reliability of the generated maps.

“Based on the best performing distribution models, these estimates predict two million ancient and veteran trees, which is an amazing increase on what is currently recorded,” said one of the lead researchers of the study Dr. Victoria Nolan.

What are ancient and veteran trees?

An ancient tree is one that demonstrates exceptional age in relation to other trees of the same species. They usually will have hollowing trunks, dead wood in their canopies, and the presence of other organisms like fungi or plants on their structures. Veteran trees will also share many of these features, but just not be old enough to be considered “ancient.”

Why is this work important?

Conservationists are excited about this groundbreaking discovery. Adam Cormack, head of campaigning at the Woodland Trust says: “It’s remarkable that this research suggests we are yet to find most of the UK’s ancient trees, the cathedrals of the natural world.”

The hope is that once the trees are identified, they can gain “the automatic legal protection that most of [England’s] wildlife and old buildings have.”

Right now, the Woodland Trust is petitioning governments across the UK for improved protection of ancient trees.

“These astonishing trees are our inheritance from history, and we should be treating them like national treasures,” Cormack declares.

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