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Friday, 31 August 2012

Biodiversity rich grasslands stock atmospheric carbon

PRESS RELEASE - 31.08.2012, ECCB2012, Glasgow

The spring meadow in flower is one of the most pleasant views of "nature" for many people in Europe. Unfortunately, biodiversity-rich meadows are also in decline, and at an alarming rate, throughout Europe. Recent research, presented at the 3rd European Conference of Conservation Biology in Glasgow, demonstrates such species-rich meadows are much more efficient for storing carbon dioxide than the "improved" (i.e. fertilized), but species-poor grasslands that predominate in modern agriculture.

Photo by R. Arlettaz

Meadows with limited fertiliser input and pastures grazed at low stocking density contain a much richer flora and fauna than intensively managed grasslands. Yet they are in retreat over much of Europe – traditionally so in Western Europe, and now also in the new member countries of the European Community.
New research – presented at the European Congress of Conservation Biology (ECCB) held this week in Glasgow – demonstrates that such "unimproved" grasslands play a much greater role than previously thought in the capture of atmospheric carbon.
“We surveyed a wide range of grasslands across England and consistently found that grasslands with low fertilizer inputs store carbon much more efficiently than more intensively-managed grasslands” says Dr Sue Ward of the Lancaster Environment Centre.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that low-intensity grasslands are key suppliers of a range of ecosystem services. They boost pollinators that play a crucial role in agricultural production. Now it is clear that they have a stunning carbon storage capacity as well, thus helping the fight against climate change.

Dr David Buckingham, one of the organisers of the grassland session at the conference, highlights that “These findings demonstrate that new European agri-environmental policies need to take into account this novel crucial function and should be used to promote low-input grasslands all over the continent”.
European decision makers are currently debating EU agricultural policy – one of the key policies that already has and will continue to influence the state of grasslands across Europe. Attendants of the symposium on grasslands at the ECCB therefore are calling for policymakers to take the findings from scientific research seriously and adapt the EU agricultural policy to become much more environmentally sustainable. This will not only assure safe future of currently vulnerable European extensive grasslands but will make a considerable input into reaching EU carbon targets.

More information (symposium conveners):
·        Dr David Buckingham, tel: 07753775219
·        Prof. Raphaël Arlettaz: 0041 79 637 51 76

About the study on carbon sequestration:
·        Dr Sue Ward, tel: 01524 592 931
·        Prof. Richard Bardgett,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About time the role of grasslands in carbon storage was acknowledged. It can be further enhanced through trees -- wood pasture can provide additional carbon storage, low carbon fuel and livestock welfare gains.