Growing Bristol’s tree canopy

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health and Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

The important role trees play in the urban environment is well established. Trees provide a range of benefits valued at over £279 million to the city economy, as well as valuable shade cover and, as our green lungs, reducing emissions too. The city’s tree canopy is home to a diverse array of wildlife and supports nature recovery by promoting biodiversity. We also know, from personal experience and academic study, that trees are good for our own health and wellbeing.

Across Bristol the council manages over 100,000 trees in parks and woodlands, on streets and school grounds, and other public spaces. That doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of trees on private property – in gardens and elsewhere.

This may sound a lot of trees, and it is, but there’s always room for more. Working as One City, we have an ambition to double the city’s tree canopy to support Bristol’s response to the climate and ecological emergencies.

We’ve made good progress in this effort during the past year with over 14,300 trees planted across a wide variety of settings. Over 6,200 of these trees consist of woodland trees, including the planting of one Tiny Forest, with a further 4,700 fruit trees distributed to schools, community groups, and members of the public for planting.

The remainder of our efforts have focussed on planting fruit tree orchards, over 2,200 hedgerow trees and a variety of individual trees on streets and in parks and green spaces. We were on track to meet our ambitious target but time became limited, as our attention had to turn to replacing trees damaged as a result of last summer’s drought and extreme heat. We had to plant a further 1,519 replacement trees. This meant that we almost hit our stretching target for the year. In the most recent planting season we exceeded the average number of new trees planted in recent years by more than 2,000, adding to the more than 84,000 planted since 2014/15.

This work is a long-term investment in the city’s health and wellbeing. Whilst the trees we’ve planted this past year will vary in species and maturity, the rule of thumb, it takes decades for a tree to mature and make a meaningful contribution to tree canopy. Doubling our tree canopy cannot be achieved in a matter of a few years, rather we need to plant and keep on planting year on year to generate a cumulative impact for the city in future.

To achieve this we’ve got a number of methods of promoting and delivering tree planting programmes. This includes the incredibly successful One Tree Per Child programme which has supported the planting of over 60,000 trees in the past six years. There are also tree sponsorship programmes and options for communities to direct tree planting via their local area committees.

Mayor Marvin Rees (second right) and Councillor Ellie King (right), are pictured, smiling, alongside tree they planted with local volunteers and school children in Hillfields.