How gardeners can mitigate adverse effects of climate change through tree planting choices

The problem – why do we need this research?

Environmental concerns such as extreme heat and flooding are exacerbated under a changing climate, particularly in urban areas, where impermeable grey surfaces deter rainwater from infiltrating into the ground, and more solar radiation is stored and trapped than in rural surroundings.

Green infrastructure provides flood mitigation, cooling, insulation, noise attenuation, CO2 sequestration, increased biodiversity, improved air quality, and improved human health and wellbeing. Trees are highly effective to provide these services, due to their large-stature and longevity. Tree planting and maintenance are therefore vital to achieve more environmentally friendly cities, but knowing what the most effective tree species or cultivar would be to provide a particular benefit (or range of benefits) is still a challenge due to knowledge gaps. 

What are we doing?

This project, which is a collaboration between the RHS and Frank P Matthews tree nursery, aims to make gardeners conscious about the contribution they can make in tackling some specific environmental concerns through tree planting. Specifically, we quantify rainfall attenuation, cooling potential and carbon uptake on a range of garden tree species to understanding how tree-species selection can be optimised for the delivery of these services.

What difference will this research make?

Building on current RHS recommendations on preferred growing conditions for garden trees (‘right plant, right place’), this project aims to provide gardeners with information on which tree species are best suited to maximise the delivery of selected ecosystem services (‘right plant, right place, right purpose’). Further objectives are to create a labelling system for garden trees, to give information on which species provide which range of services – and to what degree of effectiveness.

Our current advice

Gardening for the environment
10 ways to be more sustainable in your garden
Trees for smaller gardens
Ecosystem services delivery by urban hedges
Plants for pollinators

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.