The Right Tree in the Right Place?

Willow tree on the Meadows, Edinburgh

Creative Carbon Scotland in collaboration with Climate House at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh hosted an event entitled ‘The Right Tree in the Right Place’ on 27 March. A useful summary of the event has been published on the Sustainable Practices blog.

The rubric of right tree in the right place is a response to an earlier (post-war) culture of assuming that any unused land like peat moorland should be turned to productive forestry. The right tree in the right place is meant to suggest that we can do more intelligent planting, and it is certainly true that we understand the value of different landscape types much better. Scottish Government for instance is investing significant sums in peatland restoration – undoing drainage systems and in some cases removing commercial plantations.

However the right tree in the right place assumes that there are fixed criteria and some people working in forestry believe we are post-normal conditions where there are multiple variables – landscapes are changing because of climate change, weather is becoming more extreme (increased ocean temperatures mean more humidity and therefore more severe storms, greater rainfall, etc), pests and diseases are becoming a significantly increased threat (ash die back and emerald ash borer beetle). These multiple factors suggest that any claim to be able to determine the right place for any particular tree now and for that to still be true in 30, let alone 50 or 100 years, is challenging.

The challenge is what strategies are fit for ‘post-normal’ conditions? It requires a rethinking of what right tree in the right place might mean. Places become more important, and all the constituencies in those places need to be involved – right tree in the right place is no longer determined by science and centralised policy-making alone.

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