Farming News - Natural England’s study reviews carbon storage impact from England’s habitats

Natural England’s study reviews carbon storage impact from England’s habitats

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is today welcoming with interest the recently reported outcome of Natural England’s study portraying how UK landscapes can contribute to carbon management, while also offering landscape diversity and opportunities for nature.
The study identified peatlands and native woodlands as habitats with the greatest capacity to store carbon but also recognised that many other habitats, including grasslands can have a significant role to play towards achieving the UK net zero target by 2050.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “Future land management schemes, such as Defra’s Environmental Land Management Scheme provide the opportunity for the vast majority of the UK’s farmland to be managed in ways that enhance soil and nature through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, but also to go further with Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery to create and maintain habitats with related net zero benefits.
“By rewarding farmers for protecting and sustaining important areas such as native woods and peatland, alongside other traditionally managed habitats such as grazed grasslands, waterways, hedgerows, hay meadows, orchards and heathlands allows the preservation of wildlife and biodiversity within a farmed landscape.”
Findings from the study highlight that with the right management hedgerows can increase carbon storage whilst being beneficial for wildlife and biodiversity as part of the farmed countryside. But the right management often brings additional costs and provides goods that aren’t rewarded for through the marketplace. 
In the study woodlands are noted as having high rates of carbon sequestration – depending on the species, age and location, and that old woodland can become substantial carbon stores.  Protecting these old, established habitats is important for biodiversity, as well the carbon stocks they hold, as both may have taken centuries to accumulate. However in the rush to meet tree planting targets it is crucial to remember the importance of suitable site selection. Mr Stocker continues: “The right tree in the right place is what is crucial and that future needs will be a mix of climate control, nature recovery and a need to feed ourselves healthily and not ‘offshore’ our footprint to somewhere that is simply out of sight.
“As the NSA some may feel we are biased but we are confident, and not alone, in believing that sheep farming across the UK plays an integral role in the delivery of sustainable land management policy that delivers for the UK’s landscapes, countryside and people. Native trees and shrubs, integrated with sheep and grazing animal systems, can support productivity and sheep health and welfare improvements, and provide wider environmental and nature benefits, helping to contribute to the UK meeting its carbon targets.”
Further information on the habitat benefits for sheep flocks can be found in the NSA and Woodland Trust booklet ‘Sheep and Trees’ available to download from the NSA website here.