Date: 06/11/21

Categories: COP26   Nature   

This article was written by Trish Marcouse, Nature Theme Lead for Reading Climate Action Network.

The natural environment is an ally in the battle against climate change as woodland, grassland, wetland and soils can all lock up carbon if managed correctly. However, the natural environment is also threatened by the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures will be higher in the town than that in the surrounding countryside due to the ‘urban heat island’ effect. More intense periods of rain and drought are expected.

Changes to vegetation and soil will affect many species and in ways that we have not seen before. More research is needed to gauge the way different species are affected (University of Reading is doing some of this) in times of drought and flood and the impacts on the life cycle of certain species if they, or their prey, are dependent on particular plants at specific times. Whether climate change could lead to local or regional extinction is yet to be determined, but we know that certain species have not yet recovered from population crashes in the 1970s.

The COVID-19 lockdown highlighted the importance of people having access to greenspace where they live for the health and wellbeing. We have to manage the greenspace in a way which helps addresses climate challenges whilst improving access for people.

Priorities on the pathway to net zero for nature and key adaptation issues

  • Managing existing natural habitats to sequester and store more carbon: by increasing the amount of permanent cover (including but not restricted to tree cover) but still providing access for people to enjoy the open space and, perhaps even more important, increasing the storage of carbon within the soil
  • Increasing provision of inviting greenspace for residents and biodiversity in areas of the town with limited access at the moment
  • Ensuring that national and local planning policies requiring a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity are observed, so that new and restored habitats can help us mitigate the causes and adapt to the impacts of climate change
  • Creating and enhancing wildlife corridors through Reading: by joining up natural and semi-natural habitats
  • Helping individuals and organisations to make changes to their land to help mitigate the impacts of climate change

 Progress to date

  • The adoption of policies in the Local Plan to ensure that green spaces are joined up and that new development delivers a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity
  • The launch of the ‘Trees for Reading’ initiative which seeks to increase tree cover in the town
  • Volunteers have visited most of the council lands and looked for opportunities to increase carbon storage and biodiversity. Plans drawn up with the council and changes to management/structure agreed for 8 sites so far with changes commencing in 2021
  • ‘Rewilding’ systems have been initiated by Reading Borough Council, reducing the frequency of mowing on 6 Ha of highway verges and roundabouts to benefit biodiversity, with positive feedback from the public.
  • Initial research completed and pilot trials commenced for soil food at two sites in Reading 

Can you help us achieve more of our goals?

Reading has a large number of existing voluntary groups who help to conserve open spaces; encourage and assist people to grow their own food; encourage the sharing of food resources (read about the amazing, annual, Reading Town Meal organised by Food4Families where the chefs in training cook a free meal for 1000 people in the main town centre park using food donations from allotment growers and otherswww.readingtownmeal.org.uk).

This network contains a wealth of knowledge that will help achieve the targets. Most of these groups are listed on the Greater Reading Environmental Network, GREN, website www.gren.org.uk

Contact nature@readingcan.org.uk for more

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