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News & Press: News from Environmental Professionals

Arbs At the Sharp End of Environmentalism

14 June 2019   (0 Comments)

Arboriculture in the UK is underplaying its environmental role and missing the opportunity to help maximise the provision of ecosystem services in urban areas, according to Brynley Andrews CEnv, writing in the Summer 2019 edition of the ARB Magazine.

Maybe this is because arboriculturists (arbs) have not yet shrugged off the mindset that they are a hybrid discipline of silviculture and amenity horticulture, and have not fully embraced being environmentalists. Arbs should readjust their perspective to reflect their position at the sharp end of tactical urban ecosystem services provision. Correspondingly, arbs should be mostly concerned about the major, serious environmental issues, climate change and air-pollution, and the best way to act on this is by advocating and using tree canopy cover (TCC) as a method of analysing sustainable development in every area and on every project.

Tree canopy cover targets
General public awareness of the importance of the urban forest is growing: social media groups of tree enthusiasts espouse the value of ecosystem services and rage at developers and local authority planners for allowing our greenspaces and streets to be ruined by tree removals. Highly respected figures such as Sir David Attenborough warn of a catastrophic collapse of civilisation; and the consensus of scientific opinion, i.e. the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tells us that there is no documented historic precedent for the action needed at this moment, and we have just 12 years to make massive and unprecedented changes.

The position of arbs within communities and society offers us a unique opportunity to improve TCC on a daily basis without any need for discussion with other players who might slow us down. If we arbs don’t set TCC targets, who will? No one else has our unique conservation mindset and is in the same position to make such a big difference. Factoring in the local TCC targets and the need for low carbon management to every scenario we encounter should be a knee-jerk reaction. It is a basic truism to state that if we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem.

Setting clear TCC objectives for every area and project is our method of contributing the most we can to a sustainable environment. Every community, be it district, county, city, town or parish, and project must step-up to the mark and set TCC targets. The Forest Research study by Dr Kieron Doick (Doick et al. 2017) of about 300 UK towns and cities provides a solid start for assessment and target setting for the rest of the c.43,000 cities, towns and village-parishes in the UK (Towns UK, 2019).

Arbs already play the major role in enabling increased TCC. However, the past mindset may be holding us back from truly engaging with the need to maximise ecosystem services performance, for the betterment of all life on Earth. We can do this using i-Tree software (thanks to the sponsors and geniuses behind it) and studies in the UK such as those by Dr Doick, backed up with on-the-ground surveyassessment data and computer-aided-design software for individual sites; and then we can set targets everyone can understand.


The full piece is available to read here


Brynley Andrews MSc,CEnv, MArborA is an independent arboricultural and green infrastructure consultant based in Somerset who is a passionate but realistic environmentalist. 

Bryn is a Chartered Environmentalist via The Arboricultural Associationa professional body licensed by the Society for the Environment to award Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv)  status 


Professional bodies licensed to award the Chartered Environmentalist registration:

Society for the Environment
EC1.1 Enterprise Centre, Puma Way 
Coventry, West Midlands CV1 2TT.
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