August 21, 2013

Managing the Land for a Resilient United Kingdom

While discussion of resilience often focuses on the middle latitude regions of the world, more northern climes are also tackling the challenge of how to be responsive to change. The United Kingdom’s Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change recently produced a robust report outlining how land use choices, particularly in agriculture, must shift to ensure that the country is resilient to climate change. Such shifts are necessary in order to safeguard the ecosystem services (e.g. food and timber supply, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, etc.) that the land supplies.

Is the glass half full? While the Committee highlighted that warmer weather and longer growing seasons could benefit farmers’ production, this is only the case if soil degradation and water scarcity issues are addressed. The report lays out a set of key recommendations targeted at the government, such as providing incentives and technical assistance to improve farmers’ soil and water management, maintaining habitat for wildlife, restoring peatlands to enhance carbon storage and regulate water flow, and protecting coastal habitat for flood protection services.

The report is part of a series assessing the United Kingdom’s preparation for the major risks and opportunities presented by climate change. This series will serve as the baseline evidence for a 2015 report to Parliament on climate change preparedness.

The Food and Climate Research Network (FCRN) provides a nice summary of the report. The press release and full report are also available on the Committee’s website.

Photo Credit: Thierry Gregorius
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  • Chris Jones
    August 21, 2013 at 10:11am

    I think we need to take a long look at what land is for. When I take school groups on the farm I ask them what the farm is for, and the first answer they come up with is ‘growing food’. we then go through a discussion about all sorts of aspects and end up with a list of things that my (our) land has to do: produce clean food for people; produce clean air (through sequestration of carbon into plants and soils); produce clean water (just about all our drinking water is filtered through farm land); produce clean energy (we have 2 turbines here, and there are many examples of local landowners hosting solar parks); provide clean habitat for all our wildlife and provide clean recreational space. I am sure you can think of others.

    Ideally we would be able to do all of these things on any piece of real estate, but as soon as we place any particular emphasis on one aspect we compromise the effectiveness of the others, eg if we allocate farmland to a solar park we severely limit the food production capacity, its value as habitat, its value as recreational space and reduce its potential for sequestering carbon.

    As for resilience to climate change, this seems to be such an open ended requirement as to be almost meaningless. any crop, either animal or vegetable is tolerant of a more or less narrow band of environmental conditions. Even without climate change we have seasons that completely bugger production forecasts (like last years grain harvest in the UK. or the previous years grain harvest in Russia). Our ability to survive those shocks was dependant on being able to trade with those nations that had had reasonable harvests, the only casualty if you will the inflation in food costs which of course mean most to poor people.

    A more appropriate action on resilience might be to start teaching people about the subject and what it means, and how to be resilient on a personal or household or neighbourhood basis so that so far as possible people will be equipped to start devising their own strategies.