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Did you know… hedgerows can help the climate too?

Craig Freeman
By Craig Freeman
4th May 2022

The humble hedgerow can store carbon and help slow climate change. In the same way as trees, hedgerows remove carbon from the air, storing it in their roots, leaves and the soil, helping us stop global heating. Not only are they part of the answer to our climate emergency but also a vital habitat for UK wildlife.

Back in 2019 the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report called for ambitious targets to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net-zero’ by 2050. Deputy Chief Executive of CPRE Tom Fyans said “The climate emergency is the greatest threat facing the countryside. From prolonged heatwaves and moorland wildfires to severe and more frequent flooding, it’s under severe pressure from the impact of climate breakdown. But it can also provide many of the solutions.”

We welcomed the recommendation for an increase of 40% in the current network of UK hedgerows. An extension of this size will help with the all-important carbon capture required to achieved a net-zero output in the next 30 years. Not only can hedgerows directly affect climate change by storing carbon, they can also help to alleviate flooding, improve air quality and create important habitats and corridors for wildlife connecting vital habitats and allowing species to safely travel and interact across the landscape. A 40% increase by 2050 would be a commitment to planting or restoring over 4,000 miles of hedgerows every year starting this year. 

Not only would the increase in hedgerows benefit us environmentally but also economically, as our new report shows. The work to increase hedgerows in the UK by 40% would create 25,000 jobs over the next 30 years and yield almost £4 for every £1 invested. Expanding our network of hedgerows in the UK will provide a natural solution to climate change but also revitalise our landscapes. Our petition to call on the government to commit to planting thousands of miles of hedges across the country has almost 40,000 signatures. These people, like us, are demanding that action is taken now before it is too late for the unsung hero of our countryside – the humble hedgerow.

 

Not just for carbon-storage

Hedgerows connect habitats, provide homes and support a variety of wildlife. More than 2,000 species are found in hedgerows making them our largest nature reserve. Nesting birds, bats, hedgehogs, dormice, voles and other small mammals are regulars to the hedgerows of Surrey. They are an essential part of our natural heritage and support a variety of plant and animal species. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) includes 130 species listed as priority that actually rely on healthy hedges for their survival. Hedgerows can provide song posts, roosting sites, shelter and nesting opportunities for both woodland and farmland birds as well as nourishment in the form of berries and nuts. Bees, butterflies, others insects and invertebrates also rely on the hedgerows as much as small mammals for their foraging opportunities. 

Our friends at Surrey Wildlife Trust are also focused on the importance of hedgerows for the future of wildlife and as a solution to the climate emergency. In the North Downs and Surrey Hills, they are running a National Lottery funded project called Hedgerow Heritage that aims to inspire and teach young budding ecologists, practical conservationists and the wider local community to restore, renew and create hedgerows in Surrey.

 

If you are interested in helping us protect and celebrate the Surrey Countryside discover how you can get involved here.

Photo of a native British hedgerow with a footpath and field running alongside
Protect the Surrey Countryside