The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) is the first analysis of the UK natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and the nation’s continuing prosperity. It is based on the processes that link human societies and their well-being with the environment and emphasises the role of ecosystems in providing services that bring improvements in well-being to people.
It is envisaged that the Ministers who commissioned the NEA will use it to re-shape planning policy.
"The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air - but also cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free," said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.
"The UK NEA is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us."
Woodlands, such as Thorpe woods, were identified as a key resource for the wellbeing of the country and its people.
Two-thirds of the UK’s current woodland area of around 3million hectares is productive plantation, mostly less than 100 years old and much of it comprising non-native species. These facts emphasises the importance of Thorpe woods which are largely native, semi natural woodlands that are well over 100 years old.
The benefits of local woodlands
Woodland such as ours were identified as having many benefits, they support biodiversity, carbon regulation, help prevent flooding and contribute to our mental and physical health. In fact the report calculates that the health benefits of merely living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year.
The social benefits of woodlands and other green spaces are often underestimated. Most of us appreciate the wildlife value of our woods but the report identifies their importance as green spaces, particularly when they exist as green spaces in urban areas.
'The growth of the UK population, combined with a trend for smaller households, has driven up housing demand everywhere. This has led both to an expansion of urban settlement into the countryside and also to an increase in housing density in inner cities. In metropolitan areas, per capita
green space provision has therefore declined, particularly in the most deprived areas, adversely affecting health by reducing childhood development, mental and physical well-being, for example through less exercise, less community cohesion, and a diminished sense of security, and by causing the loss of a sense of place. In particular, the sale of playing fields and loss of associated wildlife has reduced opportunities for young people to participate in sporting activities and to study nature. This has affected their education, ecological knowledge and understanding of the natural environment and its importance to them, and risks long-term detriment'.
Recent Forestry Commission surveys found that a majority of people agreed that ‘trees are good because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood’, ‘that woodlands are places to reduce stress and anxiety’, and ‘that they felt healthier when spending time outdoors in the woodlands’
This once again underlines how lucky Thorpe and Norwich are to have this wonderful green space that stretches for 200 acres and which enhances all of our lives, it also underlines what a terrible loss it would be if we were to lose such an irreplaceable treasure.
A rare a vital treasure
Only 9% of England is wooded, despite cover increasing by 45% since 1945.Woodlands possibly deliver the greatest number of ecosystem services including carbon storage, recreation, timber and a contribution to water regulation.
This report tells many of us what we knew already, that the people of Thorpe and Norwich are very lucky to have such a beautiful, rich and life enhancing woodland to enjoy, and that if we were to lose it our live’s would be much poorer.
Thorpe Woods are still under threat, the Broadland Land Group are continuing with their plans to cut this woodland down and cover it with concrete and tarmac, their sole concern is money and how much they can make, it would appear they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
You can save these woods, not only for yourself but for your children, and their children. Over the next few months the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands will be working with our local councillors to ensure the woods are preserved and protected within the joint Core Strategy. Once again we will be asking you to play an important part in in protecting these precious woods.
The UK National Ecosystem Assessment