The value of habitats of conservation importance to climate change mitigation in the UK

R. H. Field*, G. M. Buchanan, A. Hughes, P. Smith, R. B. Bradbury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


The twin pressures of climate change and biodiversity loss mean that it is imperative to manage land in ways that benefit carbon storage and biodiversity conservation. We focus on a set of UK habitats of recognised conservation value, first quantifying the carbon stored in the vegetation and top 30 cm of soil in these areas. We estimate that these areas store 0.55 gigatonnes of carbon in vegetation and soil to a depth of 30cm, approximately 30% of the UK terrestrial carbon store to a similar depth, on 20% of the land area. Most of these high carbon, high conservation value habitats are in upland areas, with particularly notable extents and mass of carbon in Scotland. In their current condition, we estimate these areas to exert a net sequestration effect of more than 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year. Furthermore, restoration of these habitats from their current, generally poor condition could result in an extra 6-7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year, in the context of the UK’s total emissions of 455.9 million tonnes CO2eq in 2017. Restoration of degraded bogs would avoid significant annual emissions (currently negating significant sequestration by woodlands and coastal habitats) and should be a particular priority.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108619
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date7 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

The input of PS contributes to the following UKRI-funded projects: DEVIL (NE/M021327/1) and Soils-R-GRREAT (NE/P019455/1). The contributions of RHF, GMB, AH and RBB were funded by RSPB. Thanks to Olly Watts and Phil Grice and three anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this paper, their comments immeasurably improved it. Thanks also to Ruth Davies, Mel Coath, Vicki Swales, Arfon Williams, Tom Lancaster, Andrew Midgely, Phillip Carson, Jonathan Cryer, Adam Barnett, Paul Morling, Pat Thompson, Beatriz Luraschi, Kate Jennings and Jonathon Bell who helped frame the question addressed here and shape the ‘storymap’ based on this work, available at


  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Land Use
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Natural Climate Solutions
  • Nature-based Solutions
  • Natural climate solutions, Nature-based solutions
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Land use


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