There is a common drive by many involved with trees and woodland to establish a means to register trees. If a tree is recorded somewhere, indeed anywhere it automatically accrues a value and therefore cannot be ignored as is so often the case.
Most trees will have many values, some of which are ambiguous but all are important. If all these values could be registered in a single place, we would have made a major step forward in providing a ‘soft power‘ method of insuring for all trees.
Each and every interest group or specialism, in or outwith the tree and forest industry will have set its own tree values. Most importantly locals living with a tree in their landscape will place a very different valuation (more often the more ambiguous) which should be of equal importance when recording trees. After all if your tree is important to you it has accrued a value which others must accept.
We must always remember a tree is a landscape unto itself for many, certainly the majority of people who live in the urban or peri urban, where the surface area of a tree (which for mature trees can be measured in hectares) means it is by far the greatest natural element in their lives. Therefore we cannot allow trees to fall victim as our landscapes have in being valued and thus managed without our input. The European Landscape Convention states ‘landscape is an important part of the quality of life for people everywhere: in urban areas and in the countryside, in degraded areas as well as in areas of high quality, in areas recognised as being of outstanding beauty as well as everyday areas’ – in so much discussion regarding the landscape do you ever see this statement referred to? Proving also possibly that a European or National Convention on Trees or any other attempt to legislate is unlikely to work.
One major problem is the disjointed approach towards a common register of trees. Before we get bogged down in arguing over which type of tree is more important, we should at least attempt to define all these tree types in the 1st place. Of course Ancient trees must have their own register as should Heritage Trees, very different definitions for which some trees will fall into both registers. But what of the millions of other trees?
The above crab apple is of significant ecological value, given its position within a housing estate and is a major focal point for 16 homes. Yet this tree is not recorded anywhere (until now), it has no protection at all. The locals who prize this tree have a right to register this and we have to take this into account.
Practitioner based work towards valuation is gaining momentum. For me the idea of incorporating CAVAT £ sterling values with the iTrees system can only be a good thing. Practitioners need values – this isn’t ‘Natural Capital’ stuff – it is for insurance purposes, not just for the tree but the well being & health of the community in which that tree exists, such valuation techniques go a long way in determining the right public have to their trees and preventing costly protest.
Social media has given us a very basic means to record trees by simply taking photos. Several facebook pages exist where hundreds of images are downloaded annually, thus setting a value on all the trees photographed. But this clearly isn’t enough and subject to an imbalance of opinion due to some interests being able to afford better PR.
The above Beech tree is likely to be removed because it “doesn’t fit in this landscape” – I enjoy the fact that taking a photo of it annoyed the person who stated this, a realisation that the tree does have a value to someone.
Above ‘wassailing’ an apple tree. We have a duty to recognise the cultural value attributed to this one tree through this celebration otherwise huge costs are incurred to taxpayers when the tree is threatened.
So what list of values should we work to (community value; family; scientific; cultural; production / commercial; personal; ecological; environmental, for starters?) and how do we ensure that people and communities are able to register their own values without moderation or manipulation?