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Meadows could be new carbon sinks

21 September 2011

Meadows as carbon sinks

Meadows could be better at soaking up carbon from the atmosphere than woodlands, and can be planted as 'carbon sinks' in the same way, according to the first report into the state of the country's grasslands.

The research, carried out by The Grasslands Trust, found meadows are under serious threat from intensive agricultural practices and building development. About 97% of traditionally managed lowland meadows have disappeared in the last 60 years, and many of those which remain are small and fragmented.

The Trust also found grasslands support more rare plants and protected species of animal than any other habitat, and are important for rare flowers including orchids, pasque flowers Pulsatilla vulgaris  and early gentians Gentianella anglica. More than half are Sites of Specialist Scientific Interest (SSSI) and several types of grassland are listed as priority habitats under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

However, the Trust is calling for a change in the way grasslands are viewed, arguing their value is being overlooked.

'It's not generally realised that the UK's grassland soils, including lawns, hold considerable amounts of stored carbon – up to 80 tonnes per hectare,' said the report's author, Miles King. 'That's far more than the UK's woodlands and forests.'

The Grasslands Trust is meeting the government to discuss the potential of meadows as carbon sinks and is also in discussions with a major airline about setting up a 'carbon offset' scheme using grasslands. It's hoped a pilot scheme could be up and running by next year.

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