Why are hedgerows important to wildlife?
Food and shelter:
Hedgerows and their associated trees, banks, ditches, and margins, provide valuable nesting, pollination, shelter, and migration opportunities for many woodland and wildlife species. The loss and degradation of over 75% of hedgerows since 1960 has therefore represented a major threat to ecosystem health2.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan has identified 130 priority BAP species significantly associated with hedgerows – of which 13 consist of flagship species. Over half of these (56%) are dependent upon hedgerow trees3.
Water and soil regulation:
Hedgerows help reduce soil erosion, water run-off, and flooding.
Why are hedgerows important for the climate?
Hedgerows are an active carbon sink. They sequester carbon in wood growth above ground, in roots, in leaf litter as well as in other soil organic matter.
Hedges running across slopes can also capture eroding soil organic carbon from up to 60m uphill.
An estimated carbon sequestration rate of 1km of well-managed hawthorn hedgerow: 3.24t C/year.
Hedgerows are a carbon store. Although this depends on vegetation type, hedge structure, and management practices4, as an estimate, the carbon stock of UK hedgerows ranges between 15 tonnes C/ha for short hedges (1.5m), and 30-40 tonnes C/ha for tall hedges (2.7m). A similar carbon quantity is also stored in below-ground biomass.
Hedgerows are becoming a climate action area. In the Climate Change Committee (CCC) 2019 report, extending hedges by 40% is proposed as a key change required to reach net zero carbon by 2050. This would require the creation of 200,000km of new hedges5 the equivalent to 50% of England’s current road network.