There are a number of ways that woodland and hedgerows can help slow and store water, and reduce flood peaks. On floodplains and when planted across slopes, trees act as a physical barrier to overland flow delaying the movement of water downhill and downstream. Trees also help to improve soil health and to reduce compaction, increasing how effective water soaks into the ground. They also deliver multiple other benefits, including increases in biodiversity through providing important habitat and food for a range of different animals, carbon sequestration and clean air.
As they establish and start growing, these newly planted trees can be susceptible to browsing. The conventional tree guards or tubes used to protected individual trees have been plastic, due its durability meaning the guards can withstand being out in the elements for the period of time that the young tree needs the protection that they offer.
As a protect, Sussex Flow Initiative have been committed to reducing the amount of plastic being used as part of our natural flood management woodlands, ensuring that the plastic guards are collected in when they have enabled the tree to grow to a stage that it can withstand any browsing. Reusing the guards as many times as possible and then ensuring they are recycled when they can no longer be used to protect trees. Ensuring we are not leaving them in the environment to choke the tree as it grows or break down into smaller pieces.
Reducing use of plastic is our first priority:
Not using a tree guard is the most sustainable option. As a project we have been seeking to establish riparian woodland and cross-slope woodlands through processes or using techniques that don’t require individual tree protection.
Some of the methods we have been using are:
Re-using existing guards:
We continue to monitor past plantings and have been actively revisiting sites to remove guards from planting carried out at the start of the project. We then reuse these guards, as well as we donating them to other projects, such as the charity the Childrens’ Forest, thereby mean new plastic guards aren’t used.
Recycling guards when they are no longer usable:
The removed guards that we aren’t able to reuse due to damage or degradation are sent off to a local business that recycles them into recycled plastic products, such as decking boards and benches.