Climate change and the British Uplands: evidence for decision-making
Orr, Harriet G.
Clark, Joanna M.
Gallego-Sala, Angela V.
Prentice, I. Colin
We summarise the work of an interdisciplinary network set up to explore the impacts of climate change in the British Uplands. In this CR Special, the contributors present the state of knowledge and this introduction synthesises this knowledge and derives implications for decision makers. The Uplands are valued semi-natural habitats, providing ecosystem services that have historically been taken for granted. For example, peat soils, which are mostly found in the Uplands, contain around 50% of the terrestrial carbon in the UK. Land management continues to be a driver of ecosystem service delivery. Degraded and managed peatlands are subject to erosion and carbon loss with negative impacts on biodiversity, carbon storage and water quality. Climate change is already being experienced in British Uplands and is likely to exacerbate these pressures. Climate envelope models suggest as much as 50% of British Uplands and peatlands will be exposed to climate stress by the end of the 21st century under low and high emissions scenarios. However, process-based models of the response of organic soils to this climate stress do not give a consistent indication of what this will mean for soil carbon: results range from a very slight increase in uptake, through a clear decline, to a net carbon loss. Preserving existing peat stocks is an important climate mitigation strategy, even if new peat stops forming. Preserving upland vegetation cover is a key win-win management strategy that will reduce erosion and loss of soil carbon, and protect a variety of services such as the continued delivery of a high quality water resource. © Inter-Research 2010.
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Vol. 45, pp. 3 - 12