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Trees and the climate emergency

Most of the trees you will see on this walk are over 100 years old. They would have originally been chosen because of their tolerance to air pollution or simply because they were a favourite of a particular Tree Officer in charge at the time.

Today we now recognise that trees can help us in our fight to limit further climate change. They help us by absorbing carbon dioxide (the main cause of global warming) by storing carbon while releasing oxygen. They also remove some particulate pollution from the air by catching these tiny particles on their leaf surfaces. Trees clean the air by acting as purifiers, absorbing nitrogen oxide, ammonia, sulphur dioxide and ozone and returning oxygen to the atmosphere.

Global warming is happening at a faster rate than ever. The polar ice caps are melting, and our forests are burning. We are in a climate emergency that is threatening our planet. There will be devastating consequences as temperatures soar and changes will be irreversible as ecosystems collapse. The planet will be unrecognisable. Our most powerful weapon in our fight against this is trees.

Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. As great carbon sinks, woods and forests absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries through photosynthesis. Every element of the entire woodland ecosystem plays its role in locking up carbon including living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and its associated vegetation.

As awareness surrounding the climate emergency increases, more and more councils are moving towards planting trees such as Silver Birch in their town centres and parks. These are fast growing, young trees that can capture carbon quicker. However, most of the trees you will see on this walk are older, some even planted over 100 years ago. When trees near maturity the amount of carbon they can capture slows down. Yet, a tree that lives a lot longer may store more carbon during its long time growing, than a faster growing tree with a much shorter lifespan. For example, compare an Oak tree that lives 4-500 years to a Silver Birch tree which could live for 20-50 years. The Oak would grow much slower and take longer to reach higher amounts of absorption. It would also have a long period towards the end of reaching maturity where its absorption rate is lessens, but the time between this could be 300 years. The Silver Birch will grow much faster and could be absorbing much higher amounts of carbon within a year or two, but this may only continue for 20-30 years – much less than the potential 300 years of the Oak.

The Government has promised to plant 50 million more trees each year until 2050 to achieve net zero carbon.

Town Centre birds

Trees also benefit indigenous biodiversity, providing food and shelter for different types of animals that enrich the fauna of the environment. They also provide nesting spots for certain birds such as wood pigeons and magpies which build very loose nests in the tops of large trees. You often see lots of starlings in the town centres, but they probably nest out of town in the evening. Blue Tits and Grey Tits nest in holes in the trees and bird boxes so you can sometimes spot these birds in town centres too.

Gallipoli Gardens

Ash Tree– (native) – were a very popular tree to plant in towns 100 years ago. A lot were planted in Bury c1920. This Ash tree is around 100 years old. They are no longer planted in towns or at the side of roads as their root system tends to lift pavements and they become a trip hazard. When fully grown, Ash trees can reach a height of 35metres.

Ash trees make the perfect habitat for several different species of wildlife. The airy canopy and early leaf fall allows sunlight to reach the ground, providing optimum conditions for wildflowers such as dog violet, wild garlic, and dog’s mercury to grow. In turn, these support a range of insects such as the rare and threatened high brown fritillary butterfly. Ash bark is often covered with lichens and mosses. The leaves are an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of moth, including the coronet, brick, centre-barred sallow and privet hawkmoth.

Ash tree uses– It’s a very strong wood used for engineering purposes because it doesn’t snap easily. In the past it was often used to make hockey sticks, tool handles and 3 legged wooden stools.

Library Gardens

Lime Trees – (native) – are no longer planted in towns centres because their sap often fell onto parked cars, damaging the paintwork.

Lime leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of many moth species, including the lime hawk, peppered, vapourer, triangle, and scarce hook-tip moths. They are very attractive to aphids, providing a source of food for their predators, including hoverflies, ladybirds, and many species of bird. Bees also drink the aphid honeydew deposited on the leaves. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for insects, particularly bees.

Lime tree uses – The leaves are edible and in France, they often brew them as herbal tea, known as ‘Linden Tea’.

Oak Tree – (native) – Oak trees can grow up to 20–40m tall and are known as carbon stores because they live between 4-500 years. The roots of Oak trees can spread up to 30 feet.

Oaks are very important to wildlife with around 100 different insects such as moths, beetles, greenfly, making its branches and trunk their home. One way to measure the importance of trees in Britain is by counting how many different invertebrates have adapted to that tree. Flower and leaf buds of the Oak are the food plants of the caterpillars of purple hairstreak butterflies.

Oak tree uses – In the past Oak was often used in ship building, barrel making, furniture making and in the construction of houses. At Christmas time the yule log was traditionally from the Oak tree. Oak gall – a growth found on the trunk of the tree – is still used in the production of ink as an alternative to synthetic inks.

Corner of Silver Street & Bank Street

Sycamore Tree – (non-native),some say it was introduced into Britain by the Romans, other reports suggest it was introduced in the Tudor era, around the 1500s. These broadleaf trees can grow to 35m and live for 400 years.

The Sycamore can be home to around 10 different wildlife species, attracting aphids and therefore a variety of their predators, such as ladybirds, hoverflies, and birds. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of several moths, including the sycamore moth. The flowers provide a good source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects and the seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. Sycamore trees can attract grey squirrels as they like to strip and eat Sycamore bark in the winter.

Sycamore tree uses – in Wales, Sycamore trees were used in the traditional craft of making ‘love spoons’, decoratively carved wooden spoons.  Their winged seeds are known as ‘helicopters’ and used in flying competitions and model-making by children.

Bury Parish Church

Hawthorn Tree (native)–Mature trees can reach a height of 15m and are characterised by their dense, thorny habit, though they can grow as a small tree with a single stem. The bark is brown-grey, knotted and fissured, and twigs are slender and brown and covered in thorns. Common Hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is the foodplant for caterpillars of moths, including the hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald, lackey, vapourer, fruitlet-mining tortrix, small eggar and lappet moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

Hawthorn tree uses – the woodoften used forveneers and cabinets, as well as boxes, tool handles and boat parts. Also known as the Fairy Tree in Celtic Mythology. It was celebrated for its incredible beauty and its ability to support life, yet deeply feared and respected, for it was said to be a home for fairies who would curse any who harmed it.

WW2 Memorial Garden

Norway Maple – (non-native), a hardy tree form Scandinavia that is pollutant tolerant which is why you often find it in town centres.Introduced in the 17th century, the handsome Norway maple is known for its hardy timber. Norway maple is a deciduous broadleaf tree and can grow to 25m. It can be found in the UK as a street tree and is widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens due to its tall trunk and tolerance of compacted soils, shade and pollution. A number of moth caterpillars feed on the leaves, and the flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds.

Norway Maple tree uses- Often used forVeneer, paper (pulpwood), boxes, crates/pallets and musical instruments.

Lion Gardens

Copper Beech Tree (non-native)–Copper Beech doesn’t occur naturally but is planted in urban and rural areas across the UK as an ornamental tree for its distinctive purple leaves. This particular tree would have been planted before the Mill Gate shopping Centre was built. Beech was very much in fashion during the Victorian era and therefore appear in many Bury parks. They can grow to a height of 40 meters.

Copper Beech tree uses – Originally grown to make furniture from due to its interesting grain. You often see initials carved into Beech trees from many years ago as the tree grows around the carving, leaving the initials untouched.

St Johns Gardens – The Rock

Weeping Willows – (non-native).An ornamental tree, these are a hybrid. You often see them planted next to rivers and lakes as they are water tolerant. Willow trees are fast growing and so can capture carbon more quickly than the other trees on this trail. Mature trees can grow up to 25m. They often have an irregular, leaning crown.

Caterpillars of a number of moth species feed on white Willow leaves, including the puss moth, willow ermine, eyed hawk-moth and red underwing. The catkins are an important source of early nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, and the branches make good nesting and roosting sites for birds.

Weeping Willow tree uses – Weeping Willow wood was traditionally used in wicker basket weaving and can be traced back centuries. The craft originally was used for practical purposes such as crafting beehives, lobster pots and a variety of containers.

Kay Gardens

Maidenhair Gingko- (non-native),The Maidenhair tree is one of the oldest living tree species in the world. Known as a ‘living fossil’, it is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that outlived the dinosaurs. The oldest recorded Maidenhair tree is an incredible 3,500 years old.

Besides absorbing up to 2,800 kilos of CO2, it is a fundamental barrier against gas, clouds of dust and heat, being perfectly adaptable to soils of every kind (urban soils too). It is a very good anti-smog tree. It is an important street tree in China that can tolerate air pollution caused by heavy traffic.

Traditionally, trees were planted in temple gardens in Japan and China, but today they are often found in towns worldwide. Male Maidenhair trees are usually chosen for cultivation as the female trees bear foul-smelling fruit.

Maidenhair Gingko tree uses – It is thought of as an ornamental tree so does not have a wide commercial use. However it has been used for cutting boards, furniture, and turned objects whilst also being prized throughout the world for the medicinal properties of its leaves.

Tulip Tree – (non-native), It’s grown here because of it is tolerance to pollution and because it also gives shade. Its flowers, which usually appear in April, are yellow and in the shape of a tulip. Originally from North America, it reaches (80–100 ft) in height, making it a very valuable timber tree. Although it is fast growing, it has a short life span.

Tulip Tree uses – the American Indians used the wood from this tree to build canoes. It is often used for interior finishes in houses, for siding and for panels of carriages or coffins.

London Plane – (non-native) It was probably planted here in Kay Gardens because of it shade giving properties. It is called London Plane because at one point it was about the only tree that could tolerate surviving in London, because of the pollution levels. The London Plane is the capital’s most common tree. As a hybrid of American Sycamore and Oriental Plane, it was first discovered in the 17th century, then widely planted in the 18th. London Plane are extremely resilient, coping with levels of pollution and water stress that would kill most trees. It can grow to 35m and live for several hundred years. While very little wildlife is associated with London Plane, its seeds may be eaten by grey squirrels and birds have been known to nest in its branches.

London Plane tree uses – The wood used to be popular for making veneers, as it is an attractive golden-brown colour with dark brown flecks.

Thanks to adviser – Ecologist – David Dutton


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