Trees on the line

The benefits of trees on the line

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Ecologist Paul Roebuck has written an article for The Railway Engineer on the value of lineside vegetation to all manner of wildlife.

Here is an excerpt from his article:

‘The average train commuter travelling to and from work each day will look out on a blur of houses, back gardens, embankments and trees. In fact they will see lots and lots of trees, as they form a large part of the 30,000 hectares of lineside vegetation along the 20,000 miles of track across Network Rail owned land alone.

The mix of habitats on the cutting, and their links to other green spaces, are home to a wide diversity of species. Birds nesting in the linear woodlands include tawny owl and great and lesser spotted woodpeckers. Slow-worms and common lizard can usually be found under logs beneath the canopy of the trees.

Along with accommodating habitat for wildlife, trees on embankments provide multiple environmental benefits. They reduce the ‘heat island’ effect, lowering temperatures in built-up urban environments. In the winter of 2014 you couldn’t switch on the news without coming across an item about flooding, or a landslide caused by heavy rain. Trees can help reduce the risk of landslide, and therefore delays to the rail network, by stabilising the earth and mitigating soil erosion.

For many people railways are considered unsightly, noisy and an intrusion on the landscape. Trees can help ameliorate these impacts by screening views and reducing noise and air pollution’.

View Paul’s article in The Railway Engineer April 2014.

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