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Fast-growing Australian trees in Cannock Chase trials to combat climate change

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Eucalyptus trees at Cannock Chase

Thousands of Australian trees have been planted at Cannock Chase as part of an experiment to increase the supply of carbon-lean woodfuel in the West Midlands.

Forestry Commission staff recently planted 4,700 eucalyptus trees at Cannock Chase, near Rugeley, as part of the second phase of trials to look at alternative species to conifers.

Forestry Commission foresters hope the eucalyptus will prove to be more resilient to warmer weather and the wetter summers that we have experienced over the last few years and are a possible symptom of climate change.

If the trial is successful, eucalyptus could help the forest increase supplies of woodfuel – which is a far greener source of energy than traditional fossil fuels.

Gordon Wyatt, district forester at Cannock Chase, said:

"They have been planted on a trial basis to see how well eucalyptus will grow on re-stock sites at Cannock Chase. We will be looking at how they cope with frost, deer browsing, rabbit damage and competition from weeds and drought."

Eucalyptus is potentially attractive because it can provide very high yields for woodfuel on a comparatively short rotation as it grows very quickly and has a high calorific content – which means it burns with more energy than other timbers.

Mr Wyatt said:

"The potential is for a crop that is ready for harvesting in less than a quarter of the time it would take for a traditional conifer species."

It is hoped that should the trial be successful the Forestry Commission could potentially be able to harvest the trees within ten to 14 years after planting, depending on growth rates.

The recent planting follows on from the initial planting of 500 trees last year.

The trial is being confined to a relatively small seven and a half hectare area (roughly equivalent to seven and a half football pitches) within Cannock Chase.

Mr Wyatt went on to say:

"It is currently too early to say how the new trees are doing because initial establishment is vital to the success of the crop, as they do not tolerate weed competition very well in the first couple of years due to the nutrient and water requirements of such a fast growing species."

"We planted four different species last year on three sites with different soils, exposure and temperature characteristics. Following an exceptionally bad winter, two types proved to be most resistant to frost and are still growing well."

One site suffered heavy losses due to deer browsing, however this has now been stopped after rangers put up deer fences. A further 5000 trees are planned for planting in spring next year.

The trial will only see eucalyptus planted on small areas of the forest where normal conifer plantations would traditionally be grown.
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1. The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The West Midlands region covers the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands and parts of Derbyshire and Leicestershire. To find out more about Forestry Commission England visit

For media enquiries please contact Jason Maclean of the Forestry Commission at Cannock on 01889 586593