Why do we cut down trees?

Tree thinning banner.jpg
04 February 2019

You may have seen our recent blog post about the coppicing work we carry out on our land. This activity is supported by tree thinning, which also takes place this time of year.

It’s important that as the guardians of over 6,000 acres of green space in Milton Keynes, we manage the land effectively to ensure it is kept in the best possible condition for people to use and enjoy now and in the future.

Tree thinning is key to this – while you might think that cutting down trees is a bad idea, it’s vital for ensuring remaining trees and the shrubs and wildflowers beneath them are strong and healthy. If you’d like to find out more, read on for our quick-fire guide to tree thinning…

  • Why do you need to thin trees?

When Milton Keynes was created, trees, shrubs and plants were planted at high densities (sometimes 5 trees to a M2), often using fast growing species to create an instant green landscape.  Although achieving the initial objective of quickly ‘greening’ the city; the tightness of planting was unsustainable over the mid to long term as the trees grow and compete for light. As the trees continue to grow, thinning is essential to ensure the remaining trees have enough space and light to thrive, while offering light to the developing shrub understorey and herbaceous levels.

  • What is thinning?

Tree thinning is the process of removing certain or a percentage of trees (often weaker or badly formed trees) from a plantation or wooded area, with the overall aim of creating a well-spaced and structured woodland using a diversity of healthy, well-formed trees that have the space to develop and grow further.

  • How do you decide what trees to thin?

It’s a very careful process to identify which trees will be removed, and which will remain. The number of trees removed depends on the type of tree and the density of the planting. We try to retain healthy and well-formed trees in a diversity of species so we are not relying on one tree’s species, which could then be vulnerable to pests and disease (important when combating pests and diseases, along with climate change).

This process and its results are carefully monitored to ensure the best results. Thinning can be repeated over many years, until the trees mature and their growth slows down.

  • What about the wildlife?

All the work we carry out in our parks is expertly timed to ensure it has the least possible impact on the wildlife and other park users. For this reason, tree thinning is generally carried out in the winter so it minimises the effect on wildlife and bird breeding seasons. By thinning out the upper canopy trees, it also allows light into the plantation floor, which enables the shrubs and ground vegetation beneath to grow, which further helps create wildlife habitat such as feeding (e.g. insects and berries) and nesting opportunities. Wildlife is adaptable and if a newly worked planation does not suit their purpose (e.g. nesting opportunities) and so long as there is a continuity of habitat close by, they will move to surrounding sites, returning as newly worked sites become suitable again.

As with any of the work we do, we’re very happy to answer any questions you may have about tree thinning. Do get in touch with us through our website, Facebook or Twitter.