Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is home to large swathes of land with great potential to lock away carbon and other greenhouse gases and at the same time create a multitude of benefits for people and wildlife.
Debbie Tann, Chief Executive of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “Restoring nature is our best bet for tackling both the devastating loss of wildlife locally and the climate crisis we are facing.
“But it’s not just planting trees we’re talking about – though that absolutely has its place. Turning intensive arable fields back into flower-rich grassland, restoring wetlands and, importantly, investing in reviving our incredible local coastal and marine habitats like saltmash and sea grass – must all be part of the plan now’.
“We need more ambition and more radical rethink of how we use our space on land and at sea for the benefit of everyone and for the future”.”
The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is pioneering work to radically increase the space for nature and restore natural habitats and processes. The Trust is keen to work with others to deliver natural solutions to a range of pressing environmental challenges that we face locally.
Vital local habitats include:
Since the 1930s over half of Hampshire’s ancient woodland has been destroyed but this fantastic natural habitat can absorb up to 400 tonnes of carbon per km2. Trees are a shelter to so many bird, insect and mammal species and also help to reduce flood risk.
It isn’t just about tree planting; letting native woodland expand and grow from wild scrubland can be cheaper and the trees can be more resilient to drought and disease.
It is crucially important to understand the varied mosaic of carbon absorbing environments needed for Net Zero. In many places, instead of trees, carbons sucking wild grasslands are far more appropriate. Just one 160 acre wildflower meadow like Winnal Moors in Hampshire could offset 1000 Southampton to Newcastle flights every year.
We need more sites like Barton Meadows in Winchester, where carbon emitting arable farmland has been reverted to carbon absorbing, species-rich meadows that are also a fantastic habitat for many species. Just 97 hectares of grassland the Wildlife Trust manages could lock away a staggering 11,000 tonnes of carbon.
As changing climate makes extreme local weather more likely, grassland can also prevent disasters like the devastating 2014 River Itchen and Test floods by holding 5 times more water than intensively managed and ploughed farmland.
The CCC report specifically calls for the restoration of peatland as a major carbon sink. Peat can absorb carbon for thousands of years but 94% of UK peatland has been damaged, dried out and destroyed which causes carbon to be released.
Nationally important peat beds such as in those in the Eastern Yar river valley, not only need protection but restoration. The Wildlife Trust is working with through the Heritage Lottery funded project ‘Down to the Coast’ to restore floodplain habitats to enhance their peat building potential.
Seagrass and Salt marshes
Sea grass beds around the Solent are not only home to remarkable local species, but are one of Nature’s most powerful carbon sinks. Undisturbed sea grass beds form deep mats of roots that lock away vast stores of carbon for hundreds of years.
Saltmarshes are also highly effective at sequestering carbon. Lymington and Key Haven Marshes nature reserve on the New Forest coast is a great example of a thriving salt marsh and is home to a wealth of bird species such as dunlin and grey plover.
This vital climate champion is threatened by sea level rise and we need to see low-lying land along the coast given over to allow salt marshes to adapt and survive..
Wilder Hampshire & Isle of Wight
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have published a ten year ‘Wilder2030’ plan which sets the ambitious vision the Wildlife Trust will deliver, supporting local communities and calling for action to secure nature’s recovery. This comes following several months of consultation with supporters, members of the public, partners and others.