Research we've commissioned shows that almost three-quarters of essential nature habitats in our care are at the greatest risk from climate change.
Not only do these landscapes support a variety of wildlife they also store and capture carbon emissions.
The Custodians of Carbon report, conducted by 3Keel, found that the heathland, woodland, rivers, fens and saltmarsh landscapes are already showing signs of damage from soaring temperatures, storms, droughts, rising sea levels, and flooding.
These areas not only support an incredible array of wildlife, including natterjack toads, otters, mountain hares and butterflies, they also lock up thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases every year.
Patrick Begg, Director of Natural Resources at the National Trust, said: 'We’ve known for a long time that places that are good for nature are good for the climate too – but we’re now able to see exactly which of our habitats are providing the biggest benefit, and which need restoring to prevent emissions leaking into the atmosphere.'
Poole Harbour, Dorset
There are at least nine separate areas of saltmarsh vegetation across Poole Harbour, which is home to rare invertebrates, including the plant bug Orthotylus rubidus and the hairy shore bug Saldula setulosa. These areas also support a huge variety of birdlife, including waders and overwintering wildfowl. Saltmarshes are also good at tackling climate change, locking away around 1,663 tonnes of carbon every year.
But this precious landscape is already declining, potentially because of increased nitrogen levels, damage caused by sika deer and the formation of an algal mat within the harbour. Climate change will only make things worse.
Our rangers will also need to work hard to mitigate the effects of more storms, which will increase coastal erosion and lead to rising sea levels, reducing the space available for saltmarsh to colonise. Hard sea boundaries on the urban, eastern shore of the harbour increase the importance of both Studland and Middlebere, where soft boundaries will allow saltmarsh to move inland as sea levels rise.
" “As the condition of a river, a fen or a marsh degrades, its vulnerability to climate change increases, so it’s crucial that we look after these habitats. They are our natural armour in the fight against climate change.” "
Custodians of carbon report: key findings
- Amount of land surveyed by report 101,000 hectares
- Proportion of sensitive habitats found at the coast 80 per cent
- Amount of key land in our care sensitive to climate change 73 per cent
We know that more must be done to look after nature and tackle the climate crisis. This is why we're working hard to understand how our land can contribute to the UK's net-zero carbon emissions target. We're also calling for the government to take the following actions:
- Support further research to better understand how restoring nature can help to achieve the UK’s net-zero target.
- Make sure that new strategies for restoring habitats (such as those for tree-planting or peatland restoration) are designed to achieve net-zero emissions.
- Ensure that natural climate solutions are delivered hand in hand with maximising emissions cuts in other sectors.
- Make sure that new policy frameworks and funding, including a new agricultural system,prioritise and reward measures that help nature and the climate.
- Create and support partnerships between the public, private and third sectors to work together on the ground.
Whether you become a National Trust member, enjoy a coffee in our cafés, donate to one of our appeals, or volunteer, you'll be helping us care for precious landscapes and the wildlife that depend on them. You can also get involved with your local conservation groups.
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