The United Kingdom, like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, has set itself the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the coming decades. In other words, these countries aim to store as much carbon as they emit. To achieve this, most major projects fund carbon sinks, such as planting trees. Indeed, forests (along with the oceans) represent one of the most powerful carbon sinks in the world. However, several environmental specialists have already shown that reforestation is not an easy process. A recent study by British researchers demonstrates this with a concrete example.
Led by scientists from the University of Plymouth (England), the study focused on the mountainous area of Dartmoor, located in the south west of the country. Researchers have observed the expansion and connection of oak forests, commonly referred to as “temperate rainforests.”
The work, published in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence, found that the presence of livestock grazing the surrounding vegetation hinders the growth of young oak trees. Those left behind are lower and usually have a life expectancy of no more than eight years if they are not protected.
A recovery process far from easy
Overall, the study estimated that natural regeneration of oak trees in several Dartmoor sites was limited to 20 meters from the nearest mature tree. According to the researchers, this level of natural expansion is insufficient to contribute enough to carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and the provision of biodiversity needed at the current pace of these mountainous landscapes.
“Planting trees and ending deforestation are increasingly promoted as low-cost, eco-friendly mechanisms to tackle climate change. These measures have been incorporated into the UK’s ‘net-zero’ programs and other governments and world leaders have also pledged to tackle this issue at COP26 in Glasgow last year.”develops Dr. Thomas Murphy, lead author of the study.
“However, our results suggest that the expansion of oak forests into grazing systems in the UK is not an easy process. They may play a critical role, but these important temperate rainforests have historically degraded and are now very fragmented.”the researcher continues.
Protect plantations from livestock
However, the study suggests some possibilities for rational management of these temperate rainforests. One of the solutions mentioned is to plant oaks from 4 to 7 years old directly in areas with dense vegetation, to protect the young plants from the effects of livestock. Or to exclude livestock in places where young oaks (1-3 years) are developing, to increase their growth and survival.
(ETX Daily Up)