Ecosystem Services - Carbon Capture

Carbon Captureheathland

The increasing input of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is widely accepted to be the leading cause of climate change by the scientific community. Globally, it is estimated that over 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere each year. Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases will be key in combatting climate change, but it is also widely agreed that carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere must play a part. While many synthetic inventions for this have been suggested, photosynthesising plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide very effectively. However, it is not enough simply to absorb carbon dioxide; it must then be stored to ensure it is not re-released through natural (e.g. decomposition) or unnatural (e.g. burning) processes. Trees are particularly good at sequestering carbon as they undergo a higher rate of photosynthesis (particularly evergreen trees which photosynthesise year-round) and store carbon in their wood. Levels vary greatly according to species composition, management, condition and other factors, but a recent study estimated that a hectare of coniferous woodland will sequester approximately 12.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. A large amount of carbon is stored in peat, but if it becomes exposed or dries out the carbon can be released, so it is vitally important that heath and bog habitats overlying peatland are protected.

When assessing carbon capture, we calculated an overall potential of the site by considering the ability of the habitats to capture and store carbon, as well as considering the effect of management and condition of the site. We have not considered carbon emissions at this time.

The highest scoring sites will contain a greater proportion of habitats that are good at sequestering carbon, such as woodland or well-managed peatland. Low-scoring sites may still contain habitats that are good for carbon capture, but in a smaller proportion, or contain habitats that are less capable of storing larger quantities of carbon (e.g. neutral grassland).