At Fera, we have committed to pledge 5% of our annual sales to conservation charities, causes and projects that we believe are saving the wild. For our 2021 pledge, we have chosen the wonderful Action Oak, an initiative set up to help to protect the iconic British tree from a range of growing threats. We chose them because of our deep love for the tree and its leading role it plays both culturally and environmentally.
Throughout Britain's history, oaks have been there. More than 5,000 were used in the construction of HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and legend has it that in 1651 King Charles II is said to have hidden in an oak from the Roundheads during the English Civil War (resulting in Royal Oak being one of the most popular pub names to this day). People have carried acorns for good luck, used the timber to make barrels for wine, and even made ink from the galls on trees (Newton's theories and Mozart's music were both written this way). It has always been part of our culture and when you stumble upon a 1,000 year old ancient oak, all gnarled and thick, you can't help but be amazed by its grandeur.
In the UK, behind birch and hazel, the oak tree is the third most common tree and also our most important tree for biodiversity, supporting around 2,200 species. This is more than any other native tree species and we need to protect them for cultural, environmental and social benefits.
Tony Kirkham, former Head of Arboretum, Gardens & Horticultural Services at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, has written more on Action Oak below and it gives us great joy to announce them as our first benefactor.
Action Oak by Tony Kirkham
Action Oak is a unique initiative bringing together charities, academics, private landowners and the public sector in order to lead vital work to protect the UK’s oak trees from the threats posed by pests, diseases and the growing climate emergency.
Action Oak is working across various sectors to bring together a wealth of knowledge and expertise to work collaboratively to protect our mighty oaks, a tree truly deserving of its iconic status. When we think of oak trees, we think of sturdy, strong, resilient, majestic trees, creating the very character of our countryside, as they have for thousands of years. No other tree can occupy the unique niche the oak tree does. The UK has more ancient oak trees than the rest of Europe combined, making them a quintessential part of our national identity.
By bringing together charities, landowners, government and researchers, borne of an urgent need to act to protect these magnificent trees, we aim to:
- Protect our native oaks for future generations.
- Be collaborative, innovative and committed in our research.
- Share findings with practitioners to grow healthier, stronger trees.
- Raise public awareness and appreciation of our native oaks and the important role they play in our landscapes, as a habitat for wildlife.
Action Oak was launched at Chelsea Flower Show in 2018, born out of a plant health and biosecurity meeting held at Highgrove in 2016 where representatives from charities, landowners and government identified an urgent need to act to protect oak trees and ensure their health and survival.
Working with researchers and other organisations, Action Oak have helped to secure funds for a number of research projects, tackling the many and diverse threats our oak trees face. From topics such as mapping oak tree genomes, investigating the impact of more CO2, powdery oak mildew, to securing a good acorn supply. These projects will help to safeguard the future of the UK’s oak trees. By promoting a collaborative approach across the sector we are helping to ensure the future of these magnificent trees.
This is a great start but there is still more to be done. Our mighty oaks are under threat from a range of pests and diseases, from oak processionary moth to acute oak decline, and with new threats such as Xylella looming on the horizon and the challenges of a changing climate, research becomes key in fighting for the oaks survival. But that’s not all we need to do. To help protect our oak trees we need to ensure the message gets out to woodland and park managers, as well as to the general public to help to protect our might oak, in ways such as:
- Sharing knowledge and best practise between managers and practitioners.
- Providing opportunities for researchers to collaborate and learn, and encourage a career in the field of tree health.
- Working with the public, using social media and events to promote awareness of biosecurity and the role these iconic trees have to play, socially and culturally, but also in our well-being.
Find out more about Action Oak here www.actionoak.org
Photographs by Charles Sainsbury-Plaice, Alan Price and John Glover