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The carbon sequestration potential of hedges managed for woodfuel

Organic Research Centre


With rising concern over climate change, global efforts are being made to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration. Hedgerows –a prevalent feature of the British countryside, with an estimated 700,000 km in Great Britain –provide a multitude of ecosystem services and sequester carbon in both above and below-ground biomass (Falloon et al., 2004; Carey etal., 2008). Despite their potential to store considerable amounts of carbon, little empirical data exists on the role that hedgerows play in capturing and storing carbon (Falloon et al., 2004; Follain et al., 2007). Hedges can also be managed for woodfuel, a renewable source of energy, using practices such as coppicing (Devon Hedge Group, 2014). It is therefore important to ask the question: does coppicing, the cutting and removal of above-ground biomass, have a negative impact on soil carbon stocks and isthis balanced by the carbon savings in regrowth and offsetting of fossil fuel use? To determine the effects of hedgerow management for woodfuel on carbon sequestration, carbon stocks and flows were estimated for paired 15m coppiced and un-coppiced plots established in three hedges of different species in the south of England, and an existing process-based model of the carbon sequestration under short rotation coppice adapted to a woodfuel from hedgerows scenario. The impacts of coppice management on carbon storage were then assessed along with the potential to offset fossil fuel use using a carbon budget analysis. The study revealed that while hedges which are not managed by coppicing sequester larger quantities of carbon, total carbon savings are higher when hedges are managed by coppicing due to the substitution of fossil fuels via the production of woodfuel. Although the results presented from this small-scale, short-term study should be viewed as provisional, they present a useful starting point for future enquiry, identifying the need for long-term chronological studies and data collection on carbon sequestration processes specific to hedges. Collection of further empirical data on the carbon sequestration potential of hedgerows will be needed to validate existing estimates and models and to inform decisions not only at a farm management level but also for wider policy.

Author(s): Crossland, M

Journal: Organic Research Centre

Year: 2015