If you don't live near Sheffield you may not be aware of the tree felling programme that is going on throughout the city. It's caused a stir due to the amount of trees that have been been identified for the chop along with how the whole process has been conducted. Campaigns have been organised, protests mounted and there have even been arrests. So far 4,000 trees have been cut down. Many people have said they are just trees but trees are more than just wood and leaves.
One of the trees that has been scheduled to be cut down in Sheffield is the Chelsea Road Elm. It was nominated for the Woodland Trust's Tree of the Year competition. It didn't win but ironically if it had done it would have been awarded a prize of £1,000 to go towards specialist care for it. The importance of this tree is that it has become home to the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly. This variety of butterfly is found exclusively in elm trees which meant that it suffered a natural decline over the years due to the number of trees killed by Dutch Elm disease. At one point it was feared this species would become extinct. The reason given by the council's contractor as to why the tree should be cut down is that its roots are causing minor uplifting of the pavement.
Campaigners against the tree cutting have argued that that the whole tree felling programme is about cost. In 2012 Sheffield City Council signed a 25 year contract with the private company Amey to maintain Sheffield's 36,000 trees. The campaigners say Amey want to cut down as many trees in the early years of the contract so for the remaining years the maintenance costs are greatly reduced. I'm no arborist but I have seen several green-leaved trees with notices on them stating they are going to be cut down as they are either, 'dead or dying'.
Why are trees so important? Sheffield like many places has been subject to flooding in recent years. In fact the future of the HS2 train line coming into Sheffield is now in doubt due to flooding fears. Trees have the ability to use more water than any other vegetation. They can absorb thousands of litres of stormwater. With so much green land being bought up and used for building on flood plains are being greatly reduced. Not only do they provide benefits to the ground they also look after the environment around them. The canopies of trees act as a natural filter from dust and pollutants from the air. In busy towns and cities they also reduce noise. In a fast moving world research has shown that being surrounded by trees can bring down your blood pressure and reduce stress levels within minutes.
So if you do one thing in your garden this year make sure you plant a tree.