UK ecosystems services under threat

9th August 2013

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  • Natural resources ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity



Demand for water from the agricultural sector in the UK could reach double the available supply by 2020 as a result of rising temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns unless urgent action is taken now

In its latest report, the independent committee on climate change (CCC) warns that access to vital ecosystems services, including water supply, carbon sequestration and flood protection, is at risk if the value of such services continues to be ignored in land-use decisions.

The CCC concludes that without policies to incentivise more efficient abstraction, storage and irrigation, water demand from UK farms will far outstrip supply by the end of the decade.

It also warns that 75% of coastal habitats providing natural flood defences are at risk from sea-level rise and that action being taken to protect these habitats is falling far short of what is needed to meet the target of realigning 10% of the UK’s coastline by 2030.

“The rate of realignment would have to increase five fold,” confirms the report. Achieving the 10% goal will cost £10–£15 million, but the extra 60km2 of coastal habitat that would be created as a result will cut flood defence costs by £180–£380 million in the long term.

The report also warns that the majority of the UK’s peatlands are in a “degraded condition”, with dried-out areas releasing carbon into the atmosphere and no longer providing water filtration.

According to the committee, the government could triple the amount of upland peat being restored by enforcing regulation more effectively and by putting a price on the services it provides. Such restoration of peatlands would help to secure carbon stores worth billions of pounds, it says.

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