Re-wilding? Welsh grasslands can lock away more carbon in the uplands – and put food on the plate

The race to plant more trees between the political parties is fatally flawed. The truth is that grassland can provide a more reliable carbon sink than woodlands and forests.

New political party GWLAD GWLAD knows more about land management than any other, leader Gwyn Evans still farms, and the very name of the organisation is ‘country’ in English.

And he points to research from the Grassland Trust which shows that potentially, less intensively managed grassland could store more carbon than forests.

A report in 2011 ‘Nature’s Tapestry’ published by the Trust called on policy makers to look again at the importance of the mosaic of semi natural grasslands – which massively increase the amount of carbon stored in grassland soils – such as those found in upland Wales.

“Planting trees across our country has happened before, when the Forestry Commission took advantage of our farmers, taking on 100 year peppercorn payment leases and blighting the countryside,” said Gwyn.

“In reality the semi-wild grasslands across much of our country can capture up to 3 tonnes a hectare and lock it into the soil – almost as much as Sitka Spruce plantations, which have blighted so much of the uplands,” said Gwyn.

“And what is more, is that these same grasslands can produce food, Welsh lamb that is world famous and a vital export commodity – currently 49 per cent of our product goes abroad, bringing in important vital revenue for our farming community.”

He points to the fact was that middle-Englanders have fallen for the woodland organisations high level promotion of ‘fluffy’ trees in the environment, which has created headlines in all the major news outlets.

“We understand and enjoy the benefits of woods in our country, but for politics to turn this into some kind of race to plant the most trees is tragic. As usual the London Centric politicians and pundits have missed the point,” said Gwyn.

“In their place forests and trees can be beautiful and productive, but there needs to be a mosaic of different environments in the countryside, a mixture of plants which can adapt to however the climate changes.

“Certainly we should all be doing what we can to slow down increasingly volatile weather conditions, but when we look at the emissions from countries like China and India, planting a few trees in Wales is reminiscent of the little boy putting his finger into a hole in a dam,” Gwyn added.

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