Tree Planting

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 9th December 2014.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Labour, Vale of Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment she has made of the potential for contour tree planting in areas with arable farming and the farming of sheep and cattle to improve (a) river water quality and (b) bathing water quality.

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Contour tree planting has been assessed alongside a large number of other mitigation measures for water pollution from agriculture through various research reports. More evidence is available on the benefits of contour tree planting to mitigate pollutants such as nutrients and sediments, while pathogens, which impact bathing water quality, have been less studied. However, it is believed that woodland creation could help to reduce pathogen delivery to watercourses as a result of soil structure and hydrological benefits (e.g. improved soil infiltration, drier and better structured soils and reduced surface runoff).

The Forestry Commission published a technical report in 2011 (Woodland for water: Woodland measures for meeting Water Framework Directive objectives), which set out the benefits of tree planting for water quality and flooding. The review highlighted how woodland creation could help to improve water quality by reducing nutrient, sediment and pesticide losses to water, as well as deliver other water and wider ecosystem benefits. This led to the development and use of national, regional and catchment ‘opportunity maps’ to direct planting to where woodland would be most effective within England. New national opportunity maps, showing where woodland creation could help to improve river and bathing water quality, will inform the targeting of grant payments under the new Countryside Stewardship scheme in England. This will include woodland creation options.

The report can be found at:

www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/Woodland_and_WFD_mapping.pdf/$FILE/Woodland_and_WFD_mapping.pdf

Other research projects (relevant to both England and Wales) include:

  • Defra project LM0106 (Regulatory services delivered by hedges), which found strong evidence that hedges can be effective at preventing nutrients and other pollutants reaching water bodies if they follow slope contours; and
  • Defra project WQ0106, which quantified the benefits of hedge and tree planting alongside a large number of other pollution reduction methods for farming.

Defra research reports can be found at: http://randd.defra.gov.uk.

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