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Carbon storage and sequestration of natural habitats in England

May 6, 2021
News item image Protecting, restoring and managing habitats for carbon sequestration can also support biodiversity.

In this report, Natural England gives an overview of carbon storage and sequestration rates of different habitats across England, highlights research gaps, and outlines key principles for using NbS for mitigation in the UK. The authors emphasise that there is great variability in carbon storage and sequestration rates within broad habitat types, due to location specific features such as water availability.

The review finds that woodlands have the highest carbon sequestration rate of the habitats studied, although rates vary with tree species and age, soil type and climate. Peatlands, meanwhile, sequester carbon at slower rates but store the most carbon per unit area, and can continue to sequester carbon indefinitely without reaching saturation. The authors emphasise the impact of human disturbance on carbon dynamics – for example, damage of peatlands has caused them to release carbon that has been stored for millennia, and many rivers and lakes have been turned from sinks into sources of carbon due to chemical pollution from agricultural land.

The report also provides an assessment of the potential for using NbS for mitigation in the UK, emphasising the fact that NbS must come alongside deep emission reductions across sectors, and that NbS must be designed, managed and monitored to secure carbon stores in the long term in the face of the changing climate. The authors set out eight key principles that are quoted as follows:

  1. Protect and restore peatlands.
  2. Create new native broadleaved woodlands.
  3. Protect and restore natural coastal processes.
  4. Protect existing semi-natural habitats.
  5. Target incentives for NbS to places where they can have most benefit.
  6. Integrate NbS for climate into landscapes which are primarily devoted to agriculture or production forestry.
  7. Carry out research and monitoring to fill evidence gaps.
  8. Ensure mitigation and adaptation to climate change are planned together.

Browse the full report here.