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Celebrating research students with trees

A group of OU research students planting trees.

The OU has had its first tree planting day to celebrate research students and to demonstrate its commitment to climate action.

This is part of an evidence-backed initiative which means the OU Graduate School plants a tree for each research student who graduates, in either the Forest of Marston Vale or in Malawi, through our partnership with Neno Macadamia Trust.

The tree planting project, thought to be the first of its kind at a university in the UK, works closely with these two organisations, who represent the importance of both local and international partnerships to the University.

David Gowing, Professor of Botany in the OU’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, who is leading on the science that informs the project says:

“The scheme goes further than simply planting the trees by monitoring above-ground growth and changes in the soil, so together we can give a full picture of how the trees are performing at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

“We plan to sustain the monitoring over many years to give a timeline of carbon drawdown that will inform debates around how best to mitigate climate change."

In Malawi, the Neno Macadamia Trust provides macadamia trees to smallholder farmers by. Using an approach known as agroforestry, the trees funded by the Graduate School improve food security, enable income generation and help to recover the land from deforestation.

The Graduate School plans to continue this initiative long into the future. This is both a way to congratulate and mark each research student’s admirable success and of showing the Open University’s commitment to climate action, a cause that is central to the future direction of the OU and very important to staff and many research students.

Tree Planting with the OU Graduate School

David Gowing: Planting trees has become the go-to method of mitigating climate change in terms of sequestering carbon. But it’s not as simple as simply putting a tree in the ground. So as part of this scheme we’re monitoring how the trees do in terms of carbon sequestration, both above ground and below. It’s a long-term commitment and we plan to monitor over many decades to see the total effect of these trees in reducing carbon.

Emanuel Junior Zuza: Planting the right tree for the right location. And by the right community is key for a sustainable greener future. In Malawi this helps small-holder farmers accessing macadamia tree seedlings. But also having macadamia trees everywhere within the country will result in food security and income generation.

Ramla Khan: This is my tree.

Trixie Harrison: It means a lot to be part of a little group of people who want to do some good in the world. And part of doing some good is planting trees. It’s contributed to a lot of excitement about the idea that hopefully in four years I’ll get my own tree and maybe I’ll plant that. Maybe I’ll get a cool hornbeam – that’d be nice.

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