Help protect street trees!

Since the residents of Sheffield took to the streets to slow down an over-zealous council from removing multiples trees, there has been more awareness growing of the benefit these large urban organisms provide for us.

The economic value they provide has been previously written about in this blog, with work done by the Trees and Design Action Group highlighted.

Your thoughts on protecting street trees are needed, and currently the Woodland Trust is running a consultation where you can tell Defra how you feel.

Please click over here to submit this consultation (already prepared).

street trees
It is time we realised the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of urban trees

Connecting Young Adults with Nature: Team Emeke of the NCS

On another beautiful day of this British summer, a group of young adults arrived ready with filled water bottles and lots of enthusiasm to plant  30 silver birches in Roundwood Park. The fundraising for this campaign had been successfully completed by this group, who named themselves Team Emeke. This is an ongoing partnership with Teratrees and the National Citizen Service (NCS). One of Teratrees’ objectives is to connect future generations with Nature, and today it was successfully accomplished, along with some urban greening!


Team Emeke of the NCS – The Challenge


plant trees

Surveying the morning’s work of planted silver birches


nature connection

One of the local park snails is up for investigation!



But the team is getting hungry!


tree planters

Job done, time to celebrate!


Many thanks to the Veolia team of Roundwood Park for their support.

Mass Planting of Trees

To plant multiple trees usually depends on a large amount of people, the use of technology, or a combination of both. These routes will be looked at here, first looking at India.

In India last year, 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees in 12 hours, which is most likely a new record. Saplings of 20 different species were place along the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh. This is an example which shows what can be done with political will and a recognition of what is needed in this time of anthropogenic climate change. India is third in the world for carbon emissions.

mass tree planting

1.5 million volunteers making a great change.

Another route being explored for mass planting is the use of drones. The startup Biocarbon Engineering uses drone technology to fire seed pods into the ground, with follow-up care done by local communities. A hectare of planting can be covered in 15 minutes, with preferred projects of 100 hectares. One hundred thousand pods can be planted in a day. This technological route bodes well for the future, although care is still needed to make a seed grow into a tree.

drone planting trees

A drone linked to mapping technology can plant a hectare of seed pods in 15 minutes. [Biocarbon Engineering]

A third route, is to combine humans and technology to achieve large scale planting. This is what we are working on at Teratrees, which also has the advantage of connecting young people to Nature. We believe through many humans and the internet, many projects can be initiated, and we continue to work towards this goal.

silver birch whips

A team of students surveying their handiwork in a local London park.


A Single Cell to a Tree

Life began on this planet about 3.8 billion year ago, starting precariously as single-celled prokaryotes. It took a further billion years for photosynthesis to develop, producing oxygen as a waste product which was absorbed by the oceans. The moon was much closer then and huge tides washed the Earth. A billion years passed and more complex cells appeared in the form of eukaryotes, and about 600 million years later simple multi-cellular organisms appeared, such as red algae. With the passing of another 700 million years the first phyla of animals appeared during the Cambrian explosion, with great diversification happening in the seas.

Life began precariously from single celled organisms

Life began precariously from single celled organisms

This preamble leads up to the Devonian period, 350 to 420 million years ago. The Earth was arid and warm, and most likely lacked glaciers with ocean temperatures of 30 °C. In the midst of this period an interesting event occurred. The first plant with a woody stem appeared – the first tree. Wattieza grew to a height of around 8m with frond-like leaves and reproduced by spores. This was a momentous occasion for the planet as now plants could compete for light both vertically and horizontally, and convert CO2 at higher rates. The first forests developed and were buried over time, removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the form of wood. This caused cooling of the planet and altered soil chemistry, while leaf litter fed streams – it is no surprise that there was an explosion of fresh water fish at this time.

Artists impression of Devonian Period [Eduard Riou (1838-1900)]

Artists impression of Devonian Period [Eduard Riou (1838-1900)]

About 200 000 years ago Homo sapiens (Latin for “wise person”) appeared on the planet in East Africa, a species which has now been around for 0.004 % of the Earth’s history.

The arrival of humans

The arrival of humans

In September this year, Yale researchers reported in Nature that the planet has approximately 3 trillion trees, which is about half since the spread of human civilization began. This very young species has now drastically altered the planet, and is decreasing tree populations by 15 billion per year via deforestation, forestry and land-use practices. Not only in our ‘wisdom’ are we making space for ourselves, but we are decreasing the ability for the planet to process carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and control warming, as seen during the cooling of the Devonian period. This is also ignoring the ecosystems and habitats that trees and forests provide, which is significant.

We are losing 10 billion trees per year (net)

We are losing 10 billion trees per year (net)

This loss is very worrying, but in that Nature article is also a green shoot of hope. Humans are planting approximately 5 billion trees per year, so although a net loss of 10 billion trees, it shows that there is potential to plant trees in large numbers. This is something entirely capable by our species, and there is no reason why we should not be able to produce a surplus each year. While protection of forests is vital and areas such as the Amazon are an international concern, on the individual level in our green spaces and spare land, many trees can still be planted. It is not argued here that planting trees is the solution to our problems, but rather a solution, one of many that we need to enact.

Life has come a long way from this planet being a molten ball of rock 4.5 billion years ago. Ironically, it is only our species on the planet who can comprehend this. At the current rate of tree loss there will not be a single tree in 300 years. Last year we lost acres of trees equivalent to the size of two Portugals. It is up to us to live up to our species name as ‘wise person’ and get on with the job that lies before us.


This article appeared in SALT magazine


Making London a National Park City?

The future of many humans living together in an efficient and harmonious way points towards sustainable cities, not only in resource consumption, but in the integration of the natural environment. The dichotomy between countryside and concrete jungle needs to change in our thinking. A good start is to look at existing green and open spaces within cities and see how these can be protected and developed further.

Daniel Raven-Ellison, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, with the support of many London organisations, is working hard to make such an idea a reality – for London to become a National Park City. This may at first sound slightly out of place, but consider that 47 % of London is a patchwork of green spaces, made up of 3.8 million gardens, 3,000 parks, 30,000 allotments, 300 farms, 1,300 sites of importance for nature conservation, 2 National Nature Reserves and 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites1. Most importantly, this includes 13,000 species of wildlife and more than 8 million trees.

Richmond Park

While there is current investment in London’s green spaces and organisations which look at the individual parks and trees, the important difference is the concept of a city that integrates, nurtures and protects natural spaces as one, and brings them to the fore of people’s consciousness. This is a very important idea for the relationship between humans and nature, especially for those of us who live in city environments. As argued before on this blog, if there is to be a sustainable human future, our relationship with nature need to change.

Aims of the National Park City include:

  • Connects London’s children with nature – this is key to building a new relationship, and it’s fun!
  • Grow London’s green space from 47 % to 51 % by 2051 -this will benefit all species (yes, that includes us)
  • Increase visits to outer London by 10 % by 2025 – there are many cultural gems
  • Make Greater London a Green “World City” – this can then be replicated elsewhere
  • Foster a new shared identity – adding this layer of identity to a multicultural city can help bring Londoners together, as well connect us with physical place.

Find out more at the Greater London National Park website.


1. Greater London National Park City Green Paper



Trees in the Urban Environment [CIRIA Conference – 15 July 2014]

The report of this conference can also be found on The Tree Council’s website. Below is the article.

The Tree Council CIRIA


Conference report by Dr Ryan Stevenson of Teratrees, which is a member organisation of The Tree Council.

This informative conference was chaired by Joanne Kwan of CIRIA on a pleasant summer’s day at The National Archives, Kew.

Ross Cameron from the University of Sheffield kicked off with Trees and Urban Green Infrastructure – Future Functional Cities. The vast benefits of trees presented to us in total as he did, continue to produce wonder and help us to reaffirm our actions. It was clear that trees are integral to human communities and are under-appreciated in all that they provide.

Continuing with that theme, Jim Smith from the Forestry Commission argued convincingly that we should perceive trees as an asset which would create parity with other urban infrastructure. This would mean the logic of standard asset maintenance management which is typically 0.5 to 1.5 % of the asset value and would also imply the management of London’s urban forest as a single resource. Initiatives by the i-Tree project are looking at this presently.

Emma Clark from the HTA updated us on phythophthora, chalara and Candidatus Phytoplasma ulmi in the UK, and with respect to horticultural trade. It is rather worrying regarding ash trees – Defra’s plans include toolkits, increased communication and plant passporting. Draft EU regulations are under discussion.

After lunch, Keith Maynard from The National Archives informed us regarding the water and tree management on their 4.9 hectare grounds, including the provision of wells. Initially it was thought pond level reduction was caused by nearby trees, but they discovered it was natural evaporation.

Martin Gammie (CwT Ltd) discussed trees in urban landscapes, also referring to a document to be published by the Trees and Design Action Group called Trees in Hard Landscapes. This outlines the approach when introducing urban trees, especially considering their current 25 % failure rate and average lifespan of 12 years. Importantly, more awareness is needed in selecting species and increasing collaboration between planners and planters.

Dean Bowie of Green Blue Urban was the final presentation where he showed their research and technology with introducing urban trees e.g. specific cavities and structural supports which when combined with good soil lead to much healthier trees. Root aeration is very important in urban landscapes as well as managing water, and their products tackle these challenges.

During open discussion and post-conference feedback, it is apparent that attendees see the need for more influence at the planning level with respect to trees to counter developer interests in maximising building volume. This means increased collaboration between all parties, while local authorities and TfL need to introduce tree strategies for developers, including their maintenance. Involving mortgage lenders and insurers would also be beneficial.

In closing, it was apparent from the presentations as well as London’s campaign to increase canopy cover, that trees will be of increasing importance and our approach now will greatly affect their future, and ours.

Flash Mob Garden for Wimbledon Piazza

Teratrees lent a hand to a Chelsea Fringe event that resulted in a garden appearing during the day at the Wimbledon Piazza. People enjoyed the greenery and many had time to relax in a deck chair!


IMG_4596 Curt and Ryan and tree compressed

Curt and Ryan setting up

IMG_4597 Alison and bug hotel compressed

Alison and the bug hotel!

IMG_4600 Fab and Martin compressed

Time to enjoy the sun!

IMG_4602 loo and bike compressed

Looking rather rustic!

IMG_4613 group compressed

Assembling the team

IMG_4617 Ben and Curt compressed

Ben and Curt enjoying the view.

Wimbledon Piazza looking rather tropical!

Wimbledon Piazza looking rather tropical!