Impacts of planting trees and rewilding on carbon sequestration, flood management and livelihoods in the Peak District

The Peak District National Park has been subjected to several tree-planting programmes in the last few decades. Small financial returns from woodlands, coupled with increased afforestation of coniferous trees has resulted in the neglect of woodlands. However, trees are currently being planted via several schemes. 

The Moors for the Future Partnership is working with farmers, landowners and land managers to develop woodlands in the Peak District by restoring native broadleaf woodland species by natural regeneration under the Clough Woodland Project. In parallel, the UK Forestry Commission Under the Water Framework directive is aiming at extensive woodland creation and expansion in priority sites to reduce flooding. 

The Environmental Agency has identified 550 km2 of priority land in the Peak District and Moorlands for creation of woodlands for sustainable flood risk management. Under the 25-year environmental plan, the UK Government has committed to change subsidies after Brexit with ‘public money for public goods’ approach to replace Basic Payment Scheme for farm subsidies.

Finally, the charity Rewilding Britain is in the consultation phase of the Wild Peak programme that aims to “rewild” the Peak District with locally extinct and charismatic birds and mammals alongside habitat restoration on a massive scale. The certification and sale of carbon credits is an important proposed mechanism for funding this work. 

These restoration projects are happening within the context of more ambitious projects in the pipeline. The effects of land-use change on soil carbon stocks are of concern in international policy agendas to mitigate greenhouse gases. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals place competing demands on land use, with a tension between the use of land for carbon sequestration versus food production. While the scientific benefits of planting trees for climate change and flood mitigation are well characterised, there remain significant economic, cultural and social barriers to a change in land use from pastureland to forest restoration. The problem is a classic “wicked problem”, sitting at the nexus of SDGs relating to food production, climate mitigation and life on land.

The goal of this PhD is to address the trade-offs between naturally regenerated and planted woodlands in the Peak District, in relation to ‘carbon forests’, challenges in creating woodlands for natural flood management and impacts of rewilding on livelihoods of farmers in the Peak District. 

In my research, I focus on the carbon sequestration potential of woodlands in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code for UK, examine the policy issues and subsidies related to land management post-Brexit, and assess stakeholder values of desirable and undesirable landscapes in relation to rewilding in the Peak District. 

Suma’s Publications 

Rodrigo León Cordero, Suma M, Siddhartha Krishnan, Chris T. Bauch, Madhur Anand (2018) Elements of indigenous socio-ecological knowledge show resilience despite ecosystem changes in the forest-grassland mosaics of the Nilgiri Hills, India. Palgrave Communications Volume 4, Article number: 105 (2018)

Suma Mani

Supervisor

Professor Colin Osborne

Professor of Plant Biology

Co-Supervisors

Professor Frances Cleaver

Professor in Human Geography