The National Tree Officers Conference in Reading was a gathering of over 200 local authority tree officers, all united by a common passion for the preservation and expansion of our urban forests. The conference provided a platform for experts to share their knowledge, experiences, and insights on various aspects of urban forestry, including the critical role of trees in combating climate change and the need for improved communication with local communities.
Matthew Hirons: Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services
One of the highlights of the conference was Matthew Hirons’ presentation, where he emphasised the pressing need to adapt our narrative regarding trees in urban environments. With a staggering 56% of people living in our urban towns and cities, the recognition of ecosystem service benefits provided by trees is now more important than ever in the fight against climate change. The key takeaways included:
More Trees in Private Gardens: There is a need to promote and facilitate tree planting in private gardens to increase green cover in urban areas.
Rural and Peri-Urban Tree Planting: Expanding tree planting initiatives to rural and peri-urban areas can help reduce the urban heat island effect and improve overall air quality.
Properly Designed Tree Pits: Effective design of tree pits is crucial to ensure the health and longevity of urban trees.
Communicating with Local Communities: Building strong community engagement and communication is essential to garner support for urban tree initiatives.
Stuart Marshall: The CAVAT Methodology
Stuart Marshall from Leicestershire County Council presented the updated 10-step approach of the CAVAT (Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees) software. This methodology allows for the assessment of the benefits of urban trees. The newly revised approach includes a comprehensive practitioner’s guide available on the Local Government Tree Officers Association (LTOA) website.
Kamil Witkoś-Gnach: International Collaboration in Arboriculture
Kamil Witkoś-Gnach shed light on the European Standards on Tree Assessment and the importance of international collaboration in arboriculture. With a connection with the Arboricultural Association. Collaborative efforts on an international scale can help address global tree-related challenges more effectively.
Alan McHaffie: Belfast’s Tree Strategy
Alan McHaffie from Belfast City Council presented a comprehensive 10-year plan focusing on 37 key principles. The strategy employs a three-step approach, including evaluation, community engagement, and consultation, with an emphasis on listening to feedback and adapting strategies accordingly. During the panel discussion, McHaffie highlighted the importance of tree diversity and emphasised “right tree, right place” thinking, considering climate resilience in tree selection.
Dean Bell: Engineered Tree Pit Solutions
Dean Bell, a practitioner at the University of the West of England (UWE), shared findings from his PhD research on engineered tree pit solutions. He noted that 50% of urban trees experience mortality between 13-18 years after planting. His research explored various urban tree planting methodologies, ultimately favouring crate systems due to their high rooting soil volume, which promotes tree health and maturity.
Dr. Madalena Vaz Monteiro: Tree Species Selection for a Changing Climate
Dr. Madalena Vaz Monteiro, an Urban Forest Scientist at Forest Research, underscored the importance of selecting tree species that can thrive in present and future urban climates. Diversifying tree species is crucial to ensure the long-term health and resilience of urban forests.
Sarah Dodd and Elizabeth Nicholls: Tree Law and Climate Change
The conference also highlighted the increasing damage caused by climate change to trees and properties. Sarah Dodd and Elizabeth Nicholls, specialists in tree law, discussed the unprecedented scale of this challenge, emphasising the urgent need to plan and plant trees for a future marked by climate change.
The National Tree Officers Conference in Reading provided a valuable platform for tree officers, practitioners, and experts to exchange ideas and strategies aimed at nurturing and expanding our urban forests. The insights shared at the conference underscored the critical role of trees in addressing climate change and the need for informed decision-making, community engagement, and a diversified approach to urban forestry. As we continue to grapple with the challenges posed by a changing climate, events like this conference play a vital role in shaping our path toward a greener, more sustainable future.