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Department of Plant Sciences

 

The British Ecological Society has launched a landmark report that offers, for the first time, a complete assessment of the potential of nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change and benefit biodiversity in the UK. The report, which brings together contributions from more than 100 experts, finds that nature-based solutions can help achieve net-zero commitments and tackle biodiversity loss whilst simultaneously improving wellbeing, providing ecosystem services and bringing economic benefits. While the report emphasises that all habitats can deliver nature-based solutions, it dedicates chapters to several priority habitats, including marine environments and woodlands.

 

The Department’s Professor David Coomes, Head of the Forest Ecology and Conservation Group, is lead author of the report’s Woodland Chapter. Restoring UK woodlands can make a significant impact as a nature-based solution by increasing cardon sequestration, reducing flood risk, providing shade and cooling and enhancing biodiversity. Forests currently cover 13% of the UK and the report finds there is scope to expand this significantly to sequester more carbon, although the full benefits will not be felt before 2050.

 

Professor Coomes comments that: “For large-scale tree planting to be effective in capturing carbon, we will need to avoid species-rich grasslands, peat and other organic soils. Our focus should be on areas of low-quality grassland. However, this will reduce the UK’s capacity to produce meat and dairy, meaning a shift in our diets would be needed to avoid importing more of these products and offshoring our carbon footprint elsewhere.”

 

The report highlights that nature-based solutions should be used alongside other climate and conservation actions and that implementing the solutions will require shared knowledge, resources and effective partnerships across different policy areas. Long-term policies, goals and government commitments will be necessary to support long-term investment, research and monitoring of the solutions. Professor Jane Memmott, President of the British Ecological Society, said “the report offers a real basis for setting effective policies and incentives that will maximise the benefits of nature-based solutions in the UK for the climate and biodiversity.”