Hedges, edges, farms and bees: keeping to 1.5 degrees

COP26 has come and gone — whether for better or for worse. So, what happened? We gave the phasing out of coal a role on the centre stage. We switched on the floodlights to a future of flash flooding, turned up the heat on the catastrophic effects of ice melt, planted seeds to stop logging in the amazon and schooled big business on the potential eradication of tropical coral reefs. 

While the above action is essential, the issue – as with any global conference – is that it leaves those at home wondering what to do. There was nothing ‘local’ about COP26, yet we carry out the majority of our lives at the local scale. Especially in the agricultural sector, we spend our days combing over individual fields, mapping out farms and looking to our own local landscapes. At The Land App, we believe that it is only through catalysing small scale change that the bigger issues that were centred on at COP26 can be achieved. With this in mind, we wanted to start a discussion on how The Land App can help to facilitate local environmental change in three different ways.

Firstly, a point high on the agenda at COP26, was the call to increase wild spaces for greater habitat diversity, combating issues such as the biodiversity crisis whilst simultaneously encouraging nature based solutions. And for us, this is overdue, with the UK ​​being ranked 189 out of 218 countries for the quality of its nature according to Rewilding Britain. Yet, while COP focused on populating areas of The Amazon, or on large-scale American frontiers, rewilding can also take place on the farm here at home. The Land App has been working with our partners to deliver exciting pilot projects which focus on producing hedges and hedge buffers. These – at the landscape level – can create invaluable wild corridors. Adding diverse margins across farms increases habitat diversity whilst also securing natural capital resources that can be catalysed upon in the upcoming ELMs plan. 

These unproductive field margins – when unmanaged – are not important to food production, often left bare or yielding little profit. However, with The Land App, farms can make sure that these margins are being effectively used as hedges and wild edges to maximize economic and biodiversity potential. Not only do thicker hedges and wild edges provide vital habitat in itself by linking wildlife zones together, adding a valuable nectar source for key pollinators and garnering habitat for ground nesting birds and small mammals, but these margins can also be put to work in order to produce better outcomes for farms. The Land App believes that if more farms, estates and organisations produce land management plans for hedges and wild edges, we can make a fundamental difference in lifting the UK up the quality of nature list. 

If you’d like to learn more about these kinds of project, please get in touch here: tom@thelandapp.com

Secondly, an area that we believe didn’t get the attention it deserved at COP26 was the agricultural sector. With an end to long standing agricultural subsidies on the horizon, some farmers across the UK feel like they are entering a dark tunnel with very little light at the end. However, we believe that this shouldn’t be the narrative. There is a lot to be optimistic about for our farmers. More and more we are seeing a future where farmers will be paid well to make the correct land use decisions, to be funded for coming together and providing the keystone role within the newly emerging natural capital market. The Land App can help with this. With over 45% of English farmland mapped on our platform, we want to encourage as many farmers and estates as possible to enter into a virtuous loop of being funded for facilitating nature recovery. The call to action for this is getting as many people as possible to map their current baseline. 

Understanding what sits within each farm is imperative for any change to take place. To do this The Land App has teamed up with a number of partners including OS, FWAG SW, UKHab LTD and the RPA to produce an instant best guess of what habitat currently exists. Within the tool, farmers can work with ecologists and advisors to confirm and amend this baseline – providing accessibility, accuracy and insight within their holdings. It is this shared knowledge that builds the platform form where management plans can be designed, and funding can be sourced. To make bold changes for the future of our country, we must be equally bold with the technological solutions that we employ. The future of the farm is in empowering sustainable decision making through online mapping and robust local advice.

If you want to map your baseline on The Land App and work within your landscape to deliver smart land use changes, please sign up for free here.

This brings us on to the third way in which we can really influence the global through the local. Pollinators. The Land App, in collaboration with Buglife, is pushing the exciting B-Lines initiative. This data set, which can be overlaid on The Land App – through our data library – is a solution for the damaging effects of the current pollination crisis. The B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, that aim to create a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. “They link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the British landscape”. This will provide large areas of brand new habitat benefiting bees and butterflies– but also a host of other wildlife. Getting people using this type of spatial overlay is the future of garnering pollinator populations. 

If you are interested in the B-lines project click here.

Everyone will have an opinion on what happened at COP26, but we’re interested in generating action after COP26. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can influence global issues through local solutions. Get in touch with me at tom@thelandapp.com to carry on this conversation. 

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