Millennium Forests: Events

Our ancestors understood that trees were vital for their survival. This insight was almost forgotten, as the native woodlands were cleared and as industrial society developed. Now we are starting to understand again how important trees and woodlands are for the well-being of people, the wildlife associated with them and the health of the planet generally.

Forests produce oxygen and give living space to other plants and wildlife. They also trap air pollutants and carbon dioxide. As the world's population grows, demand is increasing for living space and for timber for housing, furniture and other products. These pressures threaten the world's great forests. Our own woodlands have to be protected also.

We need to harvest timber and manage the woodlands in such a way that they are not over-exploited and destroyed. They have to be helped to renew themselves and to continue to support all the birds, animals and plants that live within their shelter.

Managing and using forests in a way that maintains their rich variety of life forms, their economic and social functions and their capacity to re-grow is called Sustainable Forest Management. Trees are planted, allowed to mature, harvested, then re-planted and naturally re-generated in a continuous cycle of growth.

For most of its lifetime, a commercial, managed forest is left alone to grow and develop. Only maintenance like fencing, weeding, draining, spacing and thinning occurs from time to time. The habitats of wildlife and plants remain secure and are not affected greatly if tree harvesting is carried out with care.

Young trees are grown in nurseries from seed to about three years of age and are planted out between November and April. It takes a broadleaved crop up to seven years to become established and between 10 and 25 years before it is ready for first thinning. Thinning gives the remaining trees the space to grow bigger. A crop may be thinned up to four times before the remaining trees are ready for felling at 60 (ash) to 150 (oak) years.

One forest cycle follows the end of another. By retaining a number of old trees, shelter is provided for the next generation of broadleaf trees. They also act as a seed source for the new crop.