COP26: Forests will be the order of the day but another climate solution lies under our feet



But as we look up to the treetops for climate solutions, some activists are urging the world to look down to where another answer lies – right under our feet.

“Whether you are looking at the Serengeti, the Cerrado in Brazil, whether you are looking at what remains of the grasslands of North America or the steppes of Mongolia, each of our key iconic grassland habitats is currently under threat. Ian Dunn, chief executive of UK conservation organization Plantlife, told CNN.

There are also many in the UK, which will welcome world leaders and climate negotiators in just over a week to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. Among several items on the agenda are how to protect forests and plant more trees to help reduce global emissions.

But Plantlife, among other groups, is campaigning for the grasslands to be protected internationally and part of any deal that emerges in Glasgow.
Plantlife is working to restore grasslands in the UK.

As leaders meet in the Scottish town, Plantlife works to restore more than 100,000 hectares of grassland, including one on the other side of the UK, in the English south of the county of Kent.

Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve is like your typical English corner of the countryside, with rolling hills and pastures. The grass here looks ordinary, brown in patches from the fall weather. But in spring, the rare orchids, bellflowers and cistus will bloom to celebrate the biodiversity of this meadow.

Restoring species-rich ecosystems like this takes time, said Ben Sweeney, manager of Ranscombe Farm, who has worked on the grassland since 2010.

“It will take a few decades,” he said.

Ranscombe Farm not only protects grasslands, but also woods, pastures and fields of crops for rare plants.

Sweeney explains that, just like with an animal sanctuary, Ranscombe Farm grows rare plants in small sections of the reserve, where they thrive, and can hopefully grow and expand into larger habitats soon.

But even after years of careful management, rangers have not been able to reverse all of the impacts agriculture and land degradation have had on the site.

The loss of grasslands threatens the biodiversity of the region.
In the UK, these vital habitats are slowly disappearing as a result of decades of intensive agriculture, housing development and infrastructure construction over the past century. The UK has lost more than 2 million acres of grassland as urban and woodland areas expand, according to the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology.

This concerns activists, as grasslands not only store carbon, but also act as a buffer against extreme weather conditions and help prevent soil erosion. Their roots hold back the light soil, and the ground cover prevents erosion from wind and water. These habitats contribute to natural flood management by retaining water after extreme weather events and then releasing it gradually.

The world is banking on giant carbon-sucking fans to clean up our climate mess.  It's a big risk.

The loss of grassland also threatens important species that depend on it, such as bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

A recent study published by the University of Manchester found that UK grasslands store more than 1.8 billion metric tonnes of carbon. This is the equivalent of storing the annual emissions of about 400 million cars.

“But they are pretty much ignored or have been ignored in many sustainability policies,” said Richard Bardgett, soil scientist and professor of ecology, and lead researcher on the study.

Another study, published in 2018 in IOP Science, concluded that California’s grasslands may play a more important role than forests as carbon sinks, because they are less vulnerable to fires and drought, than some parts of the world. will experience more as the Earth continues to warm. This is because grasslands keep most of their carbon locked up in their underground roots – even during drought and fire – unlike forests, where the carbon spreads through trees.
Cows grazing in Plantlife's Ranscombe Agricultural Reserve help stimulate plant growth.

Your diet could be linked to the destruction of grasslands

When poorly managed, grasslands can become a net source of emissions, rather than a sink to remove them. Raising cattle in the grasslands also plays a major role in methane emissions, which also contributes to the climate crisis.

A global increase in demand for meat and dairy products, as well as soybeans, is putting pressure on grasslands.

The most biodiverse savannah in the world, the Cerrado in Brazil, has been reduced to about half of its original size, mainly for the expansion of beef and soybean production, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which claims that Cerrado loses an area equivalent to the size of São Paulo every three months.

In China, vast expanses of grassland are in a “state of ecological crisis”, according to scientists, caused by overgrazing of the land. Meanwhile, in the United States, expanding farmland has led the Great Plains prairies to lose an average of four football fields per minute, according to a WWF report released in 2020.

While protecting grasslands is a global concern, the UK is increasingly expected to show climate leadership ahead of COP26.

Campaigners are disappointed with the omission of grasslands as a nature-based solution in the government’s Net Zero strategy, which is seen as a potential model for other countries’ climate roadmaps.

Ben Sweeney walks through one of the carbon-storing grasslands Plantlife is working to restore.

“The importance of grasslands in carbon capture, improved biodiversity, sustainable food production, water management and societal well-being continues to go unnoticed in this report and in government policy. “said Dunn.

“We have to work on a mosaic of habitats.

Craig Bennett, managing director of The Wildlife Trusts, said the government’s Net Zero strategy had significant flaws and that its government writers “do not appear to have fully recognized the role nature can play.”

There is little new for nature in the strategy, he said.

“Instead, old policies are recycled – and that’s not enough.”

Land restoration policies will be backed by a modest $ 880million (£ 640million) Nature for Climate fund, which had already been announced in the Conservative government’s election manifesto, Bennett points out.

Plantlife campaigns for grasslands to be recognized in the COP26 press release and protected internationally.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told CNN it was protecting grasslands at some reserve sites in England, launching a pilot program for more sustainable farming practices and awarded more than $ 55 million (£ 40 million) in grants for nature recovery projects.

“Biodiversity loss and climate change are global problems requiring global solutions,” the spokesperson said.

But Defra did not comment when asked if grasslands would be discussed at COP26 and sent quotes on the importance of ending illegal logging in forests as a climate-based solution. nature.

A group of 38 UK lawmakers are also calling for international recognition and protection of grasslands at COP26. In a motion, they want the House of Commons of Parliament to recognize the role of grasslands for their ability to reduce emissions, reduce flood risk and act as essential ecosystems for pollinators.

They urge “government ministers to take the opportunity of COP26 in Glasgow to seek international recognition and protections for species-rich grasslands, to lead by example in taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change and increase biodiversity and to ensure that these natural beauty areas are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. “


You Can Read Also

Entertainment News



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.