Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), as part of the national movement of Wildlife Trusts, is calling on the UK Presidency of the global climate conference COP26 to tackle the nature crisis alongside the climate emergency or, they warn, neither will be solved. They say there are solutions that need to be addressed urgently.
Dorset’s seagrass meadows are home to many marine species, including seahorses. Seagrass has a huge capacity for carbon storage, accounting for 10 per cent of the carbon captured in marine sediments annually, despite covering only 0.2 per cent of the sea floor. “This hard-working habitat needs our protection,” said conservation director of DWT, Imogen Davenport, who leads DWT’s work on nature-based solutions.
According to DWT, agriculture covers 70 per cent of Dorset and introducing low-carbon farming practices could have a big impact. Imogen said: “Conserving soil carbon is one priority and measures to reduce the run-off of soil into rivers and make space for water will help wildlife as well as reduce carbon loss.”
She explains that woodlands are best achieved through natural regeneration of woods, or planting resilient native trees where that isn’t possible. “New woodlands should be planned for places where they will help nature’s recovery, not planted on the precious areas of high-quality open habitats like downlands and heathland that we have in Dorset. These established habitats also already hold high levels of soil carbon. At Wild Woodbury, a large-scale community rewilding project near Bere Regis, Dorset Wildlife Trust will focus on natural woodland regeneration,” said Imogen.
Peatlands represent the largest carbon store on Earth, with 42 per cent of all soil carbon locked away in these vital habitats. It stores vastly more carbon per acre than woodland, yet peat is still used for gardening rather than leaving it to do its vital job for nature and climate.
Imogen said: “In Dorset our heathland bogs and mires, which is where most of our peat soils form, have in the past been damaged through development, forestry and drainage. Nevertheless, over 150 separate sites have been identified and at least half of these need restoration to enable peat soils to recover and to better capture carbon.”
DWT reminds us that green space in the heart of communities is vital for people, wildlife and the climate explaining that it can help control urban temperatures, manage flooding and maintain health and wellbeing.
“COP26 is a make-or-break event for the planet and the decisions made, or not made, at this conference will be crucial for Dorset’s natural environment,” said Imogen. “With so much to think about, it’s easy to forget how integral wildlife is to the climate. This is the moment to knit the two back together.”
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Net zero needs nature. Nature needs net zero. Both need to be resilient to the climate of the future. Nature’s fantastic ability to trap carbon safely and provide other important benefits is proven – peatland, woodland, saltmarsh and other wild habitats are vital carbon stores. But these natural places are in decline and face even greater risk of degradation from the extreme climatic conditions that are already inevitable over the next 30 years. It’s becoming a vicious spiral of damage – one that has to be stopped right now.
“In addition to the urgent task of cutting emissions at source, we need to see an enormous rise in the amount of land and sea that’s protected for nature – and increase it to at least 30% by 2030. Also, the Government must embed climate action – mitigation and adaptation – across every department and take urgent steps to stop carbon-emitting activities such as new road building, peat burning and trawling the seabed.”
The Wildlife Trusts call on the Government to:
- Significantly increase peatland restoration and repair 100% of upland peat by 2050
- Implement an immediate ban on peatland burning and end farming on deep peat
- Ban the sale and use of peat in gardening and compost products, including imports
- Implement a ban on bottom-trawling the seabed in England
- Give all seagrass habitats highly protected status
- Renew pledges to protect coastal habitats and invest more in natural sea defences
- Give a boost to sustainable farming that locks carbon into the soil and helps wildlife
- Publish details on how Environmental Land Management Scheme will incentivise farmers to manage their land for nature-based solutions
- Increase the natural regeneration of woods and where this cannot be done, plant resilient native trees instead
- Ensure a mix of trees is planted in every location so as to have the best chance of survival in unpredictable conditions and in the face of increased pests and diseases
- Make more space for nature everywhere including in towns and new developments. By 2030 we need to have protected 30% of our land and seas for nature. Create a new designation, Wildbelt, which protects places, including degraded land, that is put into recovery for nature
- Ensure that planning reforms deliver the Government’s legally binding target in the Environment Bill to halt species decline by 2030
Dorset Wildlife Trust says there are a number of things local people can do to ensure a brighter future for Dorset’s wildlife.
- Support Dorset Wildlife Trust’s pioneering work at Wild Woodbury (dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/RewildingDorset)
- Take action locally to help nature by volunteering with Dorset Wildlife Trust
- Go peat- and pesticide-free in your garden
- Think about how you can reduce your own carbon footprint – whether that’s travel, energy or lifestyle – there are more ideas at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
- Make your support for nature and climate action known to your MP and Councillors through post, email and social media
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