Case studies from North East England Conservation of the Black Poplar tree, Populus nigra

Populus nigra was once a common tree of the English countryside, but is now rare. It is recognised as an important conservation species in national and regional biodiversity action plans. A regionally significant population of Populus nigra is located within the municipality of Darlington and within the boundaries of The Tees (Community) Forest.

Objectives. Raise local public awareness of the tree and its conservation needs, establish community run tree nurseries to propagate new trees from local sources and plant back into urban and peri-urban locations using in­termediate labour market employees (training for employment and volun­teers) with the agreement of local land managers and farmers.

Key stakeholders. Darlington Borough Council, The Tees Forest, Biodi­versity Action Plan, Durham Wildlife Trust, Local Heritage Initiative. Resources. Financial support from Local Heritage Initiative (national lot­tery funding); staff contributions from Darlington Borough Council, NECF

Land Services and The Tees Forest, participation by stake-holders, local volunteers and school children.

Actions undertaken. Public awareness events and festivals, work in schools by community liaison officers, national and local media coverage including the BBC, music CD produced for promotional purposes.

Black poplar tree nurseries established in local schools, planting of trees on sites to increase population and distribution, appointment of a ‘Black Poplar Project Officer’, development of a Black Poplar tree nursery. Number of people involved. 2,000.

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Fig. 1. Sculptured seat provides a viewing point for a Populus nigra tree promi­nent in the local landscape

Outcomes. Increased public awareness; involvement in a conservation is­sue of local significance; increased public understanding of the Black pop­lar and its historical significance, increased public awareness of the stake­holder organisations, increased local biodiversity. The value of the carbon sequestered by this project and importance of the biodiversity to the local population has been calculated at €30,000 per annum.

Evaluation. A successful project, which has received good media cover­age, support from local decision makers and involved a significant number of local people.