Study reveals the true value of region’s five million trees
Published: Friday 26 Jan 2024
The most extensive study of the West Midlands’ tree population reveals for the first time their value to the health and wellbeing of local people and the environment.
The study demonstrates the vital role they have in cleaning up the air we breathe by removing over 200,000 tonnes of air-borne pollutants while capturing and storing 57,000 tonnes of carbon every year.
They are also crucial to helping to prevent flooding by absorbing 1.5 million cubic metres of rainwater – that’s enough to fill the pools at Sandwell Aquatics Centre 300 times over.
The study estimates the collective value of the region’s trees to the people and communities who interact with them throughout their lives as £70 billion. The value is based on the health and environmental benefits of the trees as well as their natural beauty.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) commissioned Treeconomics to carry out the study across Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry with funding from the Woodland Trust’s Emergency Tree Fund, supported by Amazon.
The findings have been combined with a separate survey which took place across the Black Country in 2022 to give the region the most comprehensive assessment of its trees and their value.
They will be used by the WMCA and its regional partners to guide future tree planting and management decisions that aim to grow the number of trees across the region even further to help tackle the climate and ecological emergencies - a key priority of the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan.
As part of the WMCA’s Virtual Forest initiative, the number of new saplings planted since 2020 by residents, community groups, councils and businesses is now approaching 600,000.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, visited Loxton REC Play Park in Duddeston Manor Road, Birmingham, today (Friday, 26 January), where a tree planting session took place, organised by the Birmingham Tree People – a volunteer group that helped carry out the tree survey.
The Mayor said: “Trees provide extraordinary value to almost every aspect of our daily lives. The findings of our survey underline just how important they are to improving both our biodiversity and the quality of the air we breathe - all whilst helping us to tackle the climate emergency and maintain our #WM2041 net zero commitment.
“That’s why we are committed to our Virtual Forest initiative which has already planted over half a million trees right across our region in just three years. It’s through the commitment of local people and community groups like Birmingham Tree People that we will achieve our ambition of planting at least one tree for every resident in the West Midlands.
“This study means we can now fully understand why we must continue to place great importance on tree planting, and I would encourage as many local people as possible to take advantage of our big tree giveaway to help us grow our tree population. These trees will bring benefits for many generations to come.”
Cllr John Cotton, WMCA portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Thanks to this survey, it is now clear to see the benefits of the five million trees that stand proud across the region - from improving the health and wellbeing of residents, to protecting the environment and also boosting the economy.
“Working with our partners, we will use these findings to make valuable decisions about the region’s green infrastructure, helping to ensure that these important resources are valued and maintained for the benefit of future generations.”
Ben Coles, of Treeconomics, said: “This study has revealed the huge economic and ecological value of the urban forest within the West Midlands. Having clear areas identified as ‘plantable’ will enable the councils to build strategic plans around tree planting, which will help ensure a green legacy for future generations.
“It is important to remember that trees are not just scenery; they're an investment into a sustainable future, and the West Midlands is to be applauded for its proactive approach.”
Ben Green, external affairs officer at Woodland Trust, said: “Trees are not just scenery; they’re an investment into a sustainable future. This comprehensive study underscores the invaluable role that the West Midlands’ five million trees play in enhancing our environment and improving the health and wellbeing of local communities.
“I am proud that our Emergency Tree Fund, supported by Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund, has contributed to funding this important research. The findings will guide future tree planting and management decisions, demonstrating the tremendous economic and ecological value of our urban forest.”
Find out more about the WMCA’s ‘big tree giveaway’ and grants that are available for community-led environment projects on the WMCA website.
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