Climate Change – the benefits of rewilding and forest regrowth as part of the growth agenda
Whether it be the recent fires in Australia, the heat waves that encompassed Europe last summer, the flash floods in Asia, or Greta Thunberg’s thousand-yard stare every time she encounters a certain Mr Trump, climate change has never been more in our consciousness.
The scientific community are now united in their view that climate change is happening, and that we need to be taking action now to address it.
The core business of DHA is to obtain permission to build. To build new homes, new offices, new transport infrastructure, and to do so in a way that is commercially viable for our clients.
For many, building on ‘our greenfields’ and seeking to address climate change do not appear as natural bedfellows; but we are looking at a number of initiatives with our clients that would proactively address concerns of air quality, flooding, biodiversity and seek long term protection of land for genuine environmental gain.
DHA believe that through development, environmental gain can be achieved not just within the site itself, but through working with local authorities and registered charities to assemble land that is suited to woodland planting or re-wilding.
Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems and the reinstatement of natural processes. It enables nature to take care of itself and encourages a balance between people and the rest of nature where each can thrive. Rewilding is fast emerging as one of the most powerful, cost-effective and life-affirming ways to rise to the challenge of climate breakdown and loss of wildlife. The potential benefits of rewilding can include restoring higher levels of biodiversity, protecting communities at risk of flooding and creating more opportunities for human wellbeing in nature.
The potential for forest regrowth is even greater. The UK has large areas of grassland which lie naturally within the broadleaved forest biome and yet are mostly devoted to extensive livestock grazing – supported largely or even entirely by agricultural subsidies – while producing little food, supporting few wildlife species and leading to soil erosion and downstream flooding. Scientists calculate that naturally regenerated forests can sequester several tonnes of CO2 per hectare (ha) from the atmosphere per year after they become fully established. The reintroduction of ecosystem engineer species (organisms that profoundly shape habitats, such as beaver) – a key objective of rewilding – can also contribute to carbon absorption through the creation of new wetlands, as well as increase species richness and biodiversity in general.
With these benefits in mind we are progressing a number of strategic opportunities to create this betterment, seeking local enhancements that will hopefully deliver much wider benefits.
Working with in partnership with local authorities, developers and landowners we are currently identifying areas of land that are of lower agricultural value (ALC) but that would be suited to be managed in the long term by public bodies, or charities as part of this programme. Much of this land is located in areas susceptible to flooding, or in the upstream areas, with added benefits of reduced infiltration rates. New development would unlock this land through financial contributions, or through land transfer as part of a legal agreement and would be placed into a Trust thereafter.
As part of this initiative DHA are working in partnership with Maidstone Borough Council to bring together a number of local authorities, focus group and developers for a programme of seminars to discuss the benefits or re-wilding and the connection of ecological rich landscapes starting in March 2020.