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Hedges and Ditches: Carbon Capture and Storage

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL791, tabled on 7 June 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the value of hedgerows in carbon capture.

Answered on

18 June 2021

A Defra-funded review in 2014 by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology illustrated the ability of hedges to store and accumulate significant amounts of carbon both above and below ground. The value of hedgerows in carbon capture was shown to vary with hedge structure, woody species and age. Tree lines were shown to be particularly impactful.

Separate analysis by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has looked at the existing agricultural hedges in England and estimated a total carbon stock of 9 million tonnes.

There is potential to increase this carbon stock in England through hedgerow creation and reducing hedgerow removal. This is reflected in Defra’s ongoing “Delivering Clean Growth Through Sustainable Intensification” project. The total potential carbon savings from hedgerow creation in England, based on a high ambition scenario, are estimated at 100,000 tonnes CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) over carbon budget 4 (2023–27) and 300,000 tonnes CO2e over carbon budget 5 (2028–32). This equates to a total of 696ha and 2262ha of grassland converted to hedgerows in carbon budget 4 and in carbon budget 5 respectively.

Future work should focus on gathering more empirical data on the carbon stock of hedgerows, including below-ground carbon stocks.