OPAL supports new Women’s Institute initiative to preserve urban trees

The National Federation of Women’s Institutes Wales has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to engage its members in preserving, protecting and planting urban trees, with the help of the OPAL Tree Health Survey.  Thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players, the project aims to engage WI members in becoming champions of trees in their local communities.

Over the next two years, WI members will assess the state of urban trees, promote active management, act as the eyes and ears for public bodies and take action to safeguard this incredibly valuable natural heritage.  The project will engage 200 WIs throughout Wales who will survey, observe, preserve, protect and engage communities in tree planting and ongoing monitoring, and spread the word about the value of trees to the wider public.

Participants will use the OPAL Tree Health Survey to assess the health of trees in their local area. The data they collect will be shared with scientists at Forest Research, supporting official surveillance by acting as a vital early warning system for diseases such as Ash dieback and pests like the Emerald ash borer.

Taking care of trees

“Urban trees are a hugely under-appreciated asset. But they are under threat from pests and diseases, climate change and increased development,” said OPAL Director Dr David Slawson. “This project is truly inspirational and OPAL is absolutely thrilled to help the project through the use of our Tree Health Survey.”

Research shows that trees in towns and cities deliver many social benefits – as well as mitigating the effects of climate change.  However, most recent studies show that 73% of urban areas in Wales have lost trees since 2010 and with 7,000 trees lost between 2006 and 2013.  The NFWI-Wales will be working with Natural Resources Wales, the Woodland Trust, Open University, OPAL and Voluntary Arts Wales to secure the future of trees.

“This is an exciting project for our members to get involved in," said Mair Stephens, Chair of NFWI-Wales. “We already know that WI members perceive climate change as the biggest threat facing future generations and want to take action to mitigate its effect in a practical way, and thanks to National Lottery players, what better way than looking after and planting trees, leaving a wonderful legacy for generations to come”

 “Our natural heritage is a most precious resource and, thanks to National Lottery players, HLF grants have helped to protect an amazing range of landscapes, habitats, and species of plants and animals, said Richard Bellamy, Head of HLF in Wales. ”HLF is delighted to support ‘A Natural Heritage project to Preserve, Protect and Plant Urban Trees’ that will stimulate people’s interest in the natural world and so help them conserve it for future generations.”