The Belfast Hills Partnership have partnered up with The Woodland Trust to deliver a fresh and exciting Woodland Project. The Woodland Trust are funding the project and both teams work closely together to deliver this important work.
The aims of this project are:
1. To re-establish areas of broadleaf and mixed woodland in appropriate areas in the Hills and beyond
2. To maintain and positively manage existing woodland and flora
3. To maximise and manage the physical links and corridors between woodland
4. To ensure Belfast Hills Woodland plays a key role in various ecosystem services
5. To ensure Belfast Hills Woodland is recognised as playing a key role in various ecosystem services
6. To engage and increase understanding of the above amongst local communities, partners, schools, farmers and other landowners
There are many elements which will help fulfil these aims:
- Connecting fragmented woodland habitat across the Belfast Hills to form an extensive tree-scape. Planting new native woodland to join the existing woodlands and scrubby areas greatly extends the habitat of local wildlife, including the recently re-discovered pine marten, Martes martes. The extended habitat allows them and other species to travel further, resulting in a healthier population and more food availability.
- Woodland restoration to increase the health of our pre-existing woodlands by removing non-native plant species and increasing native tree species diversity through enrichment planting. An increase in tree species diversity is especially important in the light of ash dieback disease as it will enhance woodland resilience to the impacts of this and other diseases.
- Working with schools to help increase tree cover in their grounds and educate the students about the importance of trees.
- Collaborating with Belfast City Council to help deliver their One Million Trees project. This project aims to plant one million trees across Belfast City by 2035.
- Helping farmers and other landowners improve their soil quality, animal welfare and crop yield by increasing tree and hedge cover on their land.
- Creating new woodland, enhancing existing woodland and increasing urban tree cover will reinforce essential ecosystem services:
- Flood mitigation – tree cover absorbs more water and slows surface run-off
- Air quality – trees naturally help purify the air by absorbing various pollutants
- Carbon capture – trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere, helping mitigate climate change
- Mental and physical health – increased greenery has been proven to aid mental health and enhancing urban greenspace can improve physical health