With the Irish Assembly election just around the corner the Woodland Trust are asking members of the public to check out the green credentials of prospective MLAs.

The conservation charity warns that the country's trees and woods are under real pressure, with planting rates at their lowest for a generation, and under increasing threats, such as tree disease.

The trust wants all political parties to put trees at the heart of their agenda, and to recognise that this natural resource can offer cost-effective solutions to many of the economic, environmental and social challenges we face.

Voters are asked to lend their support by quizzing local candidates on how they intend to protect and enhance our fragile woodland resource.

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland, said: "Trees provide many benefits we often take for granted and really can deliver 'natural capital'. It's a term we hear more and more of, and a way of measuring the benefits in economic terms.

"Planted at the right scale and in the right place, they can help to improve water quality and tackle flooding. And the potential to reduce costs to the Health Service is enormous.

"Trees improve the air we breathe and reduce resporatory diseases, while easy access to woodland encourages outdoor exercise, benefitting both physical and mental health.

"We simply want out decision makers to recognise their full value."