ARMED with shovels, community groups have joined Oxford Direct Services in introducing 2,000 plants across the city during National Tree Week.

The key planting locations are at Croft Road in Marston, Ruskin College in Headington, Rose Hill Recreation Ground and Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park.

Jo Colwell, service manager of environmental sustainability at the council, said: "Our city has a rich landscape of green spaces that capture water, clean the air and have lots of wildlife.

"Trees and shrubs contribute positively to our living environment."

National Tree Week started last Saturday and runs until Sunday, to mark the beginning of the winter tree-planting season.

Oxford's city-wide project has been coordinated by Oxford Friends of the Earth and funded by Woodland Trust, the International Tree Foundation and Oxford Direct Services. 

The latter, which is part of Oxford City Council, is providing training, transportation of the trees and support to community volunteers.

According to the council, there are 73 species of trees in Oxford, most commonly ash, willow, and poplar.

The authority defines the 'urban forest' as the collective name for the city’s trees, woody shrubs, hedgerows, and woodlands, from garden trees to green spaces at institutions and public parks.

New data from a city council survey estimates that Oxford is home to 248,200 trees, which benefit the 154,600-strong population.

At almost two trees per person, the council says this is double the ratio for London.

The tree review also found that Oxford’s urban forest removes an estimated 2,500 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere each year, and filters an 65 tonnes of airborne pollutants each year.

They are thought to intercept around 255,000 cubic metres of rain water annually, avoiding an estimated £81,000 in storm water treatment costs.

Julian Cooper, countryside supervisor at Oxford Direct Services, said: "This [tree-planting] is a great example of us working with the community and making an important contribution to Oxford’s rich environment."

Earlier this week, Tim Stevenson, Oxfordshire’s Lord Lieutenant, planted a disease-resistant elm tree at Jubilee Meadow in Wootton-by-Woodstock.

The Lord Lieutenant, who was helped by children from Wootton-by-Woodstock Primary School, said: "In the past, elm trees were an important feature of the Oxfordshire landscape.

"They have been sorely missed and I hope that these three trees will be the first of many."

He said the county needs more greenery, adding: "Trees of all kinds not only enhance our landscape and add beauty to our towns and villages, they are essential for conserving our natural wildlife, and crucially they take carbon out of our atmosphere and lock it safely away."

This story first appeared in the Oxford Mail.