Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.
The climate and nature crises have been recognised as two of the most pressing and if we fail to tackle them effectively the repercussions could be catastrophic. Fortunately, we have an increasing understanding of the steps needed to address these issues, many of which can be mutually beneficial, and also help tackle a range of other challenges we face.
One of the most effective things we can do right now is invest in Nature-based Solutions. These are defined by the IUCN as actions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems whilst also addressing societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. In other words, restoring and managing nature will also benefit us.
So, what are nature-based solutions and what do they look like? Well they cover a wide range of habitats, on land and at sea.
Repairing damaged peatlands by blocking drains, removing inappropriately located trees and restoring natural hydrology can stop emissions of greenhouse gases, improve water storage and provide habitat for a range of wildlife. Restored peatlands can capture and lock up atmospheric carbon and continue to do so year after year. These improvements can help address the climate and nature crises as well as storing drinking water and reducing flood risk.
Increasing woodland cover through planting native trees and natural regeneration captures and stores atmospheric carbon and can helps reduce flooding by slowing down and storing water. Native woodland provides habitats for our wildlife, is a source of timber and creates opportunities for recreation and tourism. In order to meet climate change targets, the UK Climate Change Committee has advised an increase of woodland cover for Wales of 4% of total land area. Spending time in native woodlands, as well as other habitats, has a positive impact on health and well-being.
Blue carbon covers a range of marine and coastal nature-based solutions including the restoration and creation of sea grass beds and intertidal habitats such as saltmarsh and coastal wetlands. All these habitats lock up carbon in vegetation and the soils and mud in which they grow and provide important habitats for other wildlife. They can also protect people and property against flooding from storm surges and high tides. This is a service that’s likely to become increasingly valuable as we face rising sea-levels and increasing extreme weather events.
Well managed hay meadows, floodplains, heathlands and wetlands store significant amounts of carbon in both vegetation and the soil, as well as supporting a diverse range of plants and wildlife, including vital pollinators. Some of these habitats are incredibly vulnerable: we have already lost more than 97% of enclosed traditional meadows. Semi-natural grasslands store more carbon than agriculturally improved ones. Therefore, protecting and restoring our remaining semi-natural grasslands will not only enhance carbon storage but benefit a wide range of wildlife and preserve an important cultural aspect of our landscape.
In order to identify how we can make best use of nature-based solutions RSPB has identified key areas of the UK that are already important for both carbon and nature and which should be protected and managed appropriately. You can read more about this work here and here. We are currently developing our understanding where the best places across the UK might be to create new nature-based solutions and we hope to publish this work shortly.
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