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England to Plant 130,000+ Trees to Fight Climate Change

Climate
Tree lined street, UK. Richard Newstead / Moment / Getty Images

The UK government will fund the planting of more than 130,000 trees in English towns and cities in the next two years as part of its efforts to fight climate change, The Guardian reported Sunday.


The plan, announced Sunday, will allow individuals, local governments, non-governmental organizations and charities to apply for grants from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund. As a challenge fund, the grants will match what the applicants themselves are able to offer for the planting of trees and continued care during their first three years of life.

"Trees are vital in the fight against climate change, which is why we must go further and faster to increase planting rates," Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement announcing the £10 million fund, as reported by The Independent.

The initiative is part of the government's pledge to plant one million trees by 2022, Sky News reported. But this plan focuses specifically on the benefits of urban trees. They can absorb noise, reduce the risk of flooding, and increase mental health and well-being, according to The Guardian.

"There is an increasing understanding of the role that trees and woodlands play in helping to make our towns and cities better places for people and nature to thrive," England's Community Forests Chair Paul Nolan said, as The Independent reported.

Applications will be administered by the Forestry Commission, which will assess them based on the social and environmental benefits they will provide. Applications will open this week, the government said.

"I am delighted the Forestry Commission have been asked to deliver the Urban Tree Challenge Fund," Forestry Commission Chair Sir Harry Studholme told Sky. "The fund is an important part of the work that the Forestry Commission is doing to expand England's tree and woodland cover. It allows us to plant more trees much closer to where people live and work, and where the many benefits of trees make the most difference. We look forward to lots of new planting happening this autumn."

The fund forms part of the UK government's "Year of Green Action," which is in turn part of its 25- year environment plan designed to provide an environmental legacy to future generations. However, the overall plan has been criticized by some experts for being short on details and less ambitious than current EU law, a concern as the UK prepares to exit Europe.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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