The value of priority habitats for carbon storage and sequestration

article written by Dan Carpenter, Projects Manager

Priority Habitats

Priority habitats in Berkshire and Oxfordshire have been estimated to store over 1.1 million tonnes of carbon (see Table 1) and to sequester at least 65,000 tonnes of carbon annually (see Table 2).

Using TVERC’s priority habitats data we were able to estimate the amount of carbon stored in priority habitats and the amount of carbon sequestered by those same habitats each year.

We used a method and carbon data from a paper by Rob Field and colleagues that estimated carbon storage and sequestration for priority habitats across the UK.

We have calculated carbon storage and sequestration values for approximately 10,000 hectares of priority habitat. We have not included Floodplain Grazing Marsh or priority lake habitats in this estimate. We did include an estimate for ponds based on data from a paper investigating carbon storage in ponds by Scott Taylor and colleagues. This means the figures are an underestimate and a significant area of prioirty habitat is not included in these calculations.

We calculated carbon stored in soils using the Global Soil Organic Carbon Map provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

We summed the above ground carbon calculated using the Field method and the soil carbon totals from the Global Soil Organic Carbon map to produce total stored carbon figures for priority habitats in Berkshire and Oxfordshire (see table 1).

How much Carbon is protected?

There are 401 sites with statutory designations for nature conservation in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. These include SAC, SPAs, SSSIs, NNRs and Ramsar sites (see this handy guide to the acronyms). These sites contain ~2,100 ha of priority habitat for which we have calculated the carbon storage and sequestration. These sites store ~ 196,000 tonnes of carbon and sequester ~11,600 tonnes of carbon each year.

In addition there are 1,158 Local Wildlife Sites in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. These are sites selected for their importance for wildlife at a county level. These sites contain ~3,540 ha of priority habitats for which we have calculated carbon storage and sequestration. These sites store ~366,390 tonnes of carbon and sequester ~26,700 tonnes of carbon annually.

Local Wildlife Sites do not receive any statutory protection, but they are a material consideration in planning.  As these data show they are incredibly important both for their wildlife value and for carbon storage and sequestration.

There are an additional ~2,700 hectares of priority habitat not in a statutory designated site or a Local Wildlife Site. These habitats receive no legal protection. These habitats store ~390,500 tonnes of carbon and sequester ~15,000 tonnes of carbon each year. They are incredibly valuable for both biodiversity and addressing climate change.

Posted: July 10, 2020