Hedgerows: The New Climate Warriors
Why the humble hedgerow is our green hero in disguise.
Nestled across the British countryside, a network of green arteries pulsates with life. These aren't roads, but hedgerows - seemingly simple rows of shrubs and trees that play a critical role in boosting biodiversity, providing wildlife havens, and even tackling the climate crisis. At LettsSafari we have worked hard to develop the ‘wild’ hedgerow. After all, the lowly British hedgerow could be a more powerful invention than we imagined and surely an essential tool in our ongoing battle against the destruction of nature.
New data from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology calculates there are 390,000 km of hedgerows in England measuring between 1 and 6 metres in height. Additionally, there are another 67,000 km of lower hedges and a further 185,000 km of overgrown hedges above 6m tall. The UK’s southwest accounts for 24% of English hedgerows. It’s a great place to start.
Why do these unassuming heroes deserve our attention?
A haven for biodiversity: Imagine a living corridor teeming with insects, birds, and mammals. Hedgerows offer diverse habitats, from the blossom-laden canopy for pollinators to the dense undergrowth for nesting birds and foraging hedgehogs. They house a dense and powerful mosaic of trees, shrubs, plants and grasses. They connect isolated woodlands, allowing animals to safely navigate fragmented landscapes, essential for species survival.
Wildlife paradise: From the flitting chiffchaff to the shy harvest mouse, hedgerows provide critical shelter and food sources for countless creatures. Berries nourish birds, insects feast on leaves, and decaying wood harbours vital decomposers. This intricate web of life ensures a healthy ecosystem through natural pest control and pollination, benefiting humans too. Habitat connectivity is necessary for biodiversity. Hedgerows link habitat patches and allow the movement of animals which may otherwise become isolated and vulnerable to decline.
Climate warriors: Don't underestimate the power of plants! Hedgerows act as carbon sinks, storing atmospheric carbon in their leaves, branches, and roots. This natural capture helps mitigate climate change, especially when compared to vast, open fields. Additionally, they reduce soil erosion, preventing valuable carbon from escaping back into the atmosphere.
More than just green lines: Hedgerows filter pollutants from water runoff, protect crops from wind damage, and even mitigate floods by slowing down water flow. They provide wind shelter for butterflies and shade for grazing animals. They even capture air pollutants. These "ecosystem services" contribute to a healthier environment and support agricultural productivity.
The future is green: Recognizing their value, conservation efforts are underway to restore and expand hedgerow networks. Planting native species, promoting sustainable management practices, and raising awareness are key steps. By nurturing these green corridors, we invest in a richer, more resilient future for both wildlife and ourselves.
At LettsSafari we have developed a technique, using old dead hedging methods alongside weaving techniques and natural plant growth to turn dead, recylced branches and wood into wild, living hedgerows. Over the last years we have created a sizable amount of new hedges. Done correctly it takes about 5-7 years to go from dead hedge to living hedge. We are also testing our ‘Wildlife Biodomes’ in a few of our parks and gardens, which takes this a step further and could crack the small, urban garden ‘hedgerow-in-corner’. We will show you how we do it in a future post ‘straight from the park’.
So, the next time you see a hedgerow, remember it's more than just a boundary. It's a vital thread in the tapestry of life, a testament to the interconnectedness of our planet, and a powerful symbol of hope in the fight against climate change. Let's cherish these green heroes and work together to ensure their flourishing future.
LettsSafari is spreading rewilding safari parks and gardens - 1 tree, 1 animal, 1 new park at a time. To receive new posts and support our work, become a LettsSafari member today.