The UK must protect and restore its carbon-rich peatlands or it risks undermining efforts to address its carbon emissions, a report warns.
Bangor University’s research shows that not only are nature-based solutions to climate change effective, but they can also help increase biodiversity, improve human well-being and bring economic benefits.
It identified the restoration of the UK’s 2.6 million hectares of peatlands as a priority as they contain around 3 billion tonnes of carbon, but most are in a degraded state and no longer active carbon to capture. Estimates suggest they could emit up to 23 million tons of CO2 annually, which is roughly half the amount released through the country’s agricultural sector.
Restoring degraded peatlands through rewetting and regrowth can reduce and eventually stop these emissions and provide benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation and flood protection, the report said.
That could include a switch to “wet farming,” where farmers would grow a variety of crops that thrive in boggy soils, halt and reverse peat drainage, and end the burning of blanket bogs to protect carbon stores. “Peat lands are nature’s superstars.
” said lead author Dr. Christian Dunn of Bangor University. “If we are serious about carbon in the UK, we must take care of our peatlands first. We must stop emptying them immediately, and then start restoring and managing them effectively.”
“If we are serious about carbon in the UK, we must take care of our peatlands first. We must stop emptying them immediately, and then start restoring and managing them effectively.
” Restoring the UK’s forests would also be a could have significant impact on additional carbon sequestration, although the full benefits wouldn’t be felt until 2050, the report said. Reducing the risk of flooding, providing shade and cooling, and the benefits of biodiversity through the expansion of native forests are also considered positive results.
Last month, the Woodland Trust warned that the UK’s forests, which are a vital carbon sink, are under threat from numerous environmental factors, including climate impacts, imported diseases, invasive plants, mammal leaves and air pollutants. Professor David Coomes of the University of Cambridge and lead author of the Woodlands Chapter said:
“For large-scale tree planting to be effective in capturing carbon, we must avoid species-rich grasslands, peat and other organic soils. Our focus should instead be on areas with low quality grassland.
“ However, this will reduce the UK’s capacity to produce meat and dairy products, meaning a shift in our diet would be necessary to avoid importing more of these products and moving our carbon footprint elsewhere. ”
The report also found that marine environments can provide significant CO2 reductions due to the large size of habitats. Salt marshes and sea grasses are important carbon reservoirs and their restoration can contribute to climate mitigation.
Salt marshes also provide coastal protection from sea level rise and storms and provide coastal habitats with high biodiversity, especially for bird species. Professor Jane Memmott, President of the British Ecological Society, said:
“The Nature-based Solutions report provides a real basis for formulating effective policies and incentives that will enhance the climate and environmental benefits of nature-based solutions in the UK. maximize biodiversity. “