Review: Implementing woodland nature-based solutions - a UK perspective

Coomes, David A., Jordon, Matthew W., Bowditch, Euan, Burton, Vanessa, Donald, Flora, Fuentes-Montemayor, Elisa, Hall, Jeanette, Jones, Alan G., Lines, Emily, Tew, Eleanor, Waring, Bonnie, Warner, Emily and Weatherall, Andrew ORCID logo ORCID: (2021) Review: Implementing woodland nature-based solutions - a UK perspective. Journal of Applied Ecology . (Submitted to Publisher) Item availability may be restricted.

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Woodlands are attracting international attention as Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to address the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises. We review opportunities in the UK, a country with low woodland cover (13%), a small woodland carbon sink (4.6% of total emissions) and ambitious afforestation plans. The UK Government’s targets to expand woodland cover could create a significant carbon sink by 2050. Planting should avoid productive agricultural land, peatlands, and high conservation value habitats. There is enough poor-quality grassland to meet UK government woodland expansion targets. Afforestation of grasslands could reduce the UK’s meat and dairy production, requiring reduced consumption of meat and dairy or increased productivity to avoid negative environmental consequences through increased imports. Mature native woodlands are important for biodiversity. Small-scale native woodland establishment within agricultural landscapes would enhance these biodiversity benefits, reconnecting fragments of ancient woodland, protect wildlife and better connect people with nature. Non-native conifer plantations provide wood products, reducing the UK’s international environmental footprint. These plantations can be damaging for nature if planted into priority habitats or native woodlands but can deliver some biodiversity benefits if planted in low-diversity sites and managed appropriately. Adaptation of woodlands and forestry to future hazards is essential: this includes increasing species diversity in plantations, creating complex stand structure and controlling pests and diseases. Selective harvesting of mature native woodlands can provide fuelwood (a renewable substitute for fossil fuels) and other wood products. However, meeting the UK’s energy demands through home-grown fuelwood would require damaging levels of extraction. Some species thrive in selectively logged woodlands, but felling large, old trees and clearing deadwood is harmful to woodland specialists and should be avoided. Past grant schemes for woodland creation rarely met annual planting targets, due to factors including bureaucracy, cultural perceptions of land management, and financial viability. New participatory approaches are needed to negotiate public payments for NbS. Synthesis and applications: There are inevitable trade-offs to consider when planning woodland expansion in wealthy countries. However, afforestation with a range of woodland types can create societal and biodiversity benefits, if carefully thought through, located and implemented.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Journal of Applied Ecology
Publisher: Wiley / British Ecological Society
ISSN: 0021-8901
Departments: Institute of Science and Environment > Forestry and Conservation
Additional Information: Andrew Weatherall, Senior Lecturer in Forestry and Conservation Biology, National School of Forestry, University of Cumbria, UK, 2013-2021.
Depositing User: Christian Stretton
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2022 10:09
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 12:00
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