Carbon storage by habitat: review of the evidence of the impacts of management decisions and condition of carbon stores and sources.

Published online
29 Oct 2021
Published by
Natural England
Content type

Alonso, I. & Weston, K. & Gregg, R. & Morecroft, M.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
UK & Atlantic Ocean & England


The aims of this Natural England cross-cutting Evidence project were: (1) To collate information and identify knowledge gaps on carbon stocks (both in vegetation and soils) for important terrestrial, coastal and marine habitats in England. (2) To determine how different management options may impact on sequestration or loss of carbon by habitat. The most detailed assessment of the soil carbon stock in this country in semi-natural habitats was carried out as part of the Countryside Survey 2007. Therefore, we use here, when possible, the same terminology. The habitats we have considered for this review are: * Grasslands, including Semi-natural and semi-improved1 grasslands; * Dwarf shrub Heath, upland and lowland; * Wetlands, including Bog, Fen, Marsh and Swamp habitats; * Woodlands, including Broadleaved, Mixed and Yew woodlands and Coniferous woodlands; * Arable and horticultural land, including improved grasslands; * Coastal, including Sand dunes, Saltmarshes, Estuaries; and * Marine, including Sea grass meadows and macroalgal beds, and Offshore sediments (North Atlantic). The most important differences that land and marine managers, conservationists and farmers alike, could make by adapting our management practices are: * Avoid or reduce soil (or coastal substrates) disturbance when managing and even restoring habitats. Consider steady changes to habitats and soils, such as gradual felling, instead of more disturbing approaches, such as clear felling of large areas. * Reduce the amount of waste or by-products which are burned or sent to landfill from management interventions. This could require developing new market opportunities. For example, try to reuse or compost arisings from heathland management, as well as wood fuel, timber and wood products, for energy production in a low carbon economy; or find use for the hay from semi-natural meadows. * Reduce the amount of fertiliser from intensively managed land leaching into water courses and coastal and marine habitats. Consider, instead, and where appropriate, using legumes to fix nitrogen, for example, reseeding them with rye-grass. * Reduce, and where possible reverse, the erosion and degradation of peatlands, including by grip blocking in the uplands and restoration of lowland agricultural peats. * Consider the conversion of arable to permanent grassland or other semi-natural habitat which requires less soil disturbance.

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