But as we look to treetops for climate solutions, some campaigners are urging the world to look down, where another answer lies – right beneath our feet.
“Whether you look at the Serengeti, the Cerrado in Brazil, whether you look at what remains of the prairie in North America or the steppes of Mongolia – every one of our prime, iconic grasslands is under threat at the moment,” said British conservation organization PlantLife. Chief Executive Ian Dunn told Granthshala.
There is much more to the United Kingdom, too, which will host world leaders and climate negotiators in just one week at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. Among the many 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 to protect grasslands internationally and is part of any deal that emerges in Glasgow.
While the leaders meet in a Scottish town, PlantLife is working to restore more than 100,000 hectares of grassland, including one on the other side of the United Kingdom, in the southern English county of Kent.
Ranscombe Farms Nature Reserve looks like your typical patch of the English countryside, with its soft rolling hills and grazing cattle. The grass here looks plain, brown in color from the autumn season. But as spring comes, rare orchids, bellflowers and rock roses will bloom in celebration of this meadow’s biodiversity.
It takes time to restore the species-rich ecosystem, said Ben Sweeney, manager of Ranscombe Farms, who has been working on the meadow since 2010.
“It will take a few decades,” he said.
Ranscombe Farms protects not only grasslands but also forests, thick pastures and crop fields for rare plants.
Sweeney explains that like an animal sanctuary, Ranscombe Farms nurtures rare plants in small parts of the reserve, where they are thriving, and hopefully can soon grow and spread to larger habitats.
But even after years of careful management, rangers have not been able to reverse all the effects of farming and land degradation on the site.
This worries activists, as grasslands not only store carbon, but also act as a buffer to extreme weather and help prevent soil erosion. Their roots hold the light soil together, and the ground cover prevents erosion by wind and water. These habitats help with natural flood management by holding water after extreme weather events, then releasing it slowly.
The loss of grasslands also threatens the important species that depend on them, such as bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
“But they are heavily overlooked or ignored in many sustainability policies,” said the study’s lead researcher, soil expert and ecology professor Richard Bardgett.
Your diet may be linked to grassland destruction
Global growth in demand for meat and dairy products as well as soy is putting pressure on grasslands.
According to scientists, in China, vast expanses of grasslands are in an “ecological crisis” caused by overgrazing of land. Meanwhile, in the United States, the Great Plains valleys are losing an average of four football fields every minute due to the expansion of agricultural land, according to a WWF report published in 2020.
While the protection of grasslands is a global concern, there are growing hopes for the UK to show climate leadership ahead of COP26.
Campaigners are disappointed by the omission of grasslands as a nature-based solution in the government’s Net Zero strategy, which is being seen as a potential blueprint for other countries’ climate roadmaps.
“The importance of grasslands in carbon capture, improved biodiversity, sustainable food production, water management and social welfare continues to be remembered in this report and in government policy,” Dunn said.
“We need to work on a mosaic of habitats.”
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said there were significant gaps in the government’s Net Zero strategy and that its author, from the government, “has not fully recognized the role nature can play.”
He said that there is nothing new for nature in strategy.
“Instead, old policies are being recycled – and that’s not enough.”
Bennett points out that land restoration policies would rely on a modest $880 million (£640 million) Nature for Climate Fund, which had already been announced in the Conservative government’s election manifesto.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told Granthshala it was protecting grasslands at some reserve sites in England, launching a pilot plan for more sustainable agricultural practices, and granting was giving over $55 million (£40 million) in Nature recovery projects.
“Biodiversity loss and climate change are global problems that require global solutions,” the spokesperson said.
But Defra did not comment when asked whether grasslands would be discussed at COP26 and sent citations about the importance of ending illegal logging in forests as a nature-based climate solution.
They urge “government ministers to use the opportunity of COP26 in Glasgow to achieve international recognition and protection for species-rich grasslands, for example to reduce the impacts of climate change and to increase biodiversity.” To take action and to ensure that those areas of natural beauty are preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
Credit : www.cnn.com