How can landscape architecture help you manage the effects of climate change?
The UK government has recently identified agriculture as being one of the industry’s most likely to feel the impacts of climate change, whilst also being a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, the prevalence of pests and diseases, and an increase in extreme weather events already influence people’s livelihoods, communities, ecosystems, and natural habitats. As a result, it is important to consider climate change now more than ever.
But what can agriculture do to help mitigate climate change and how can landscape architecture help?
Landscape architecture is a little-known profession and is positioned at the interface between design, physical, natural, and social sciences. So, landscape architects are often best placed to help solve landscape-related problems which can involve data analysis, reclamation, and restoration of land, construction of developments, overseeing the management of diverse landscapes and providing mitigation solutions for landscape (including climate change) problems.
What are UK farmers doing to help tackle climate change?
Whilst livestock has been estimated to contribute to around 5% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emission, correct grazing regimes for certain livestock can also encourage natural biodiversity and encourage certain lifecycles of wildlife species. For example, cows and sheep can help create the ideal habitat ecosystem for rare species of butterfly, but only when the correct grazing regime is in place.
Plant More Trees
As simple as this sounds, planting more trees will help to reduce CO² in the air. Trees also help to regulate the movement of water through the ecosystems, reducing the likelihood of flooding. However, the right type of trees planted in the right place is important – this is where landscape architects can help. For example, conifers absorb heat, while some species help to capture particles within the air, such as silver birch and London plane.
Establish Wildflowers Areas
Establishing areas of wildflowers can help reduce pollution by cleaning the air we breathe, absorbing heat, and helping to mitigate heavy rainfall. Wildflowers also provide both additional habitat and food sources for pollinators which are considered important for crop production. Also, setting aside land to establish areas of wildflower or tussocky grassland can provide habitat for wildlife and have a huge boost on our ecosystems.
Consider Water Management
Flooding is increasingly becoming one of Britain’s most pressing concerns when it comes to climate change. Every year we are seeing businesses and homes destroyed and agricultural landscapes compromised because the UK has not adapted to the increased rainfall. Predictions have shown that this is likely to get worse, however, drainage schemes including ditch management, maintenance of water quality, and creation of attenuation areas can reduce the chances of flooding. These systems can also establish ecosystems and biodiversity within the landscape.
Produce Renewable Energy
Schemes are available to allow farmers to generate renewable energy on their land including solar power and biofuel production. These schemes not only contribute to the UK’s sustainable and secure energy production but also if managed correctly, preserve the soilscape.
Alternative ways of generating income from the agricultural landscape are becoming more common with many farms. Schemes can include tourism (glamping and rural retreats), cafes, farm shops, renewable energy production, areas for biodiversity offsetting, alternative crops (such as wildflower seed production and essential oils) as well as diversity in livestock (including cashmere goats, alpacas, llamas, and ostriches) can all be considered sustainably to diversify an agricultural business and the way that we use the land.
Caring for the Environment
Sounds easy doesn’t it, to care for the environment, but how do you put that into practice? There are upland farmers in the UK that are actively caring for the landscape in which they farm by protecting valuable carbon stores on their land. By preserving upland peat soil and blanket bogs through sustainable grazing, avoiding erosion, enhancing water quality, and managing wildfire risks, farmers are making a valuable contribution in preventing this carbon store from releasing into the atmosphere.
So how can landscape architects help?
Landscape architects can undertake site assessment and evaluations and then prepare detailed tree and woodland planting plans, that are tailored to a specific site, project, location, and microclimate. This can include detailed specifications against which prices can be sought for installation along with management plans that outline the key objectives and timescales for the planting. A newly planted woodland can also accommodate wildflower areas with seed mixes specified based on the anticipated growth rate of the woodland, shade analysis, and ongoing solutions.
Landscape architects often work alongside other professions to support planning applications for farm diversification projects, this can include landscape visual impact assessments that assess the landscape’s ability to accommodate change. They also work alongside hydrological and drainage engineers to provide bespoke water attenuation proposals that can also increase an area's biodiversity.
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