Rewild Your Garden to Save the Planet
Expanding national parks not enough to protect nature, say scientists
Scientists have made it clear that national parks alone cannot save the planet - we will all have to get involved. Recent reports have stated that we need to rewild 30% of our land and water to begin to reverse the biodiversity loss that, left unchecked, could trigger a sixth mass extinction. Rewilding our gardens could make the difference.
An analysis of the draft UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreement by more than 50 leading scientists, including the scientific bodies BioDiscovery and the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, has found that, while expanding protected areas will, if done well, help slow the destruction of the natural world, much more is needed to stop it.
Governments are expected to commit to a Paris-style agreement for nature at Cop15 in Kunming, China, later this year, with targets that include protecting at least 30% of the land and Oceans by 2030. Given that 70% of England is farmland - the rest of us are going to have to rewild our small green spaces for the maths to add up.
The 21 draft targets to be negotiated at Kunming include proposals to eliminate plastic pollution, reduce pesticide use by two-thirds and half the rate of invasive species introduction. The agreement aims to stop what some scientists have called the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, driven by human behaviour, which threatens ecosystems vital to human civilisation.
The report lists a series of nature-based solutions such as restoring peatlands and adopting regenerative agriculture which will hopefully contribute around 10 GtCO2e (gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide) a year to global climate crisis mitigation efforts – around a third of the 32 GtCO2e annual emission reductions needed.
While these reports and findings are strong on what public sector bodies and industries such as farming can effect, they are light on how we should go about rewilding our land. Individuals will most likely have to step up.
We estimate that there could be up to 1 billion gardens worldwide. There are also around 250 million smallholdings. About 87% of households in the UK have gardens, so there are getting on for 23 million gardens, according to the WGF. There is huge potential for carbon removal and nature restoration within these spaces.
And the models and techniques for garden rewilding are simple to follow and increasingly effective. Who wouldn’t want a safari garden in their back yard?
The total area of gardens in the UK is estimated at about 433,000 hectares or 4,330 square kilometres, a bit more than a fifth the size of Wales. For England, the garden area is nearly five times larger than that of our National Nature Reserves. This is a vital resource of national significance for the thousands of wildlife species that can live in gardens.
If you add community green spaces, school yards, verges and small parks we have a colossal resource for potential good right under our feet. Rewilding gardens and small green spaces is something we can all get involved in - as individuals, families and communities. And we can effect change in smaller spaces much faster than in large areas.
16% of UK gardens contain ponds, so there could be up to 3.5 million garden ponds, providing about 350 hectares of pond habitat. More significantly, there are only about 430,000 countryside ponds left in Britain, so our garden ponds, which are generally smaller than country ponds, nevertheless form a large resource - and nowhere in the lowlands is far from a pond. Imagine if we added a small bog garden next to many of these ponds.
There are also getting on for 30 million trees in our gardens, which make up about a quarter of the national resource of trees outside woodland. Garden tree cover extends to over 47,000 hectares, not far short of the 56,600 hectares of the New Forest National Park.
The biodiversity crisis will not wait for us. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather rewild my garden than wait around for a sixth mass extinction to force me to act - too late.
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