Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat 2021 (NERR094)

April 26, 2021

"Their [peatland] restoration is now recognised as a priority for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land use in the UK." Natural England, 2021

A new Natural England Research Report on ‘Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat reviews the scientific evidence base relating to carbon storage and sequestration by semi-natural habitats, in relation to their condition and/or management.


Lead report author, Dr Ruth Gregg, Senior Specialist – Climate Change for Natural England said:

The natural environment plays a vital role in tackling the climate crisis as healthy ecosystems take up and store a significant amount of carbon in soils, sediments and vegetation. Alongside many other negative impacts, the destruction and degradation of natural habitats has resulted in the direct loss of carbon stored within them. Restoring natural systems can start to reverse this damage at the same time as supporting and enhancing biodiversity, alongside delivering co-benefits for climate change adaptation, soil health, water management and society


Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat 2021 (NERR094), Fig. 1.2
Figure 1.2 Conceptual model of habitat trajectory towards carbon stock equilibrium. The rate of sequestration and capacity to store carbon is different for different habitats, with every site having an equilibrium specific to its management, climate and soils. The exception to this is peatlands, which can continue sequestering carbon for many millennia. Note – this figure is conceptual, axis are for illustration and are not to scale. Trajectories assume no disturbance within the habitat. 


The report includes a chapter on peatlands with an up to date summary of the available greenhouse gas information. The report presents information on the carbon impact of land use activities on peatlands such as drainage and burning as well as looking at the evidence around trees on peatlands.

"Chapter 4: Blanket bogs, raised bogs and fens – peatland habitats hold the largest carbon stores of all habitats. When in healthy condition they sequester carbon slowly but are unique in that they can go on doing so indefinitely. Peatlands in England have long been subjected to damaging land use, resulting in them becoming a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, releasing carbon previously stored for millennia. Restoration interventions in many cases will reduce these emissions, allow biodiversity to recover, increase peatlands resilience in the face of a changing climate and provide a range of benefits for people and society. Restoring the carbon sink function of peatlands is possible though may take decades depending on the initial level of damage to a site. Restoration actions include blocking drains, stopping burning and removing forest plantations."

Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat 2021 (NERR094), Fig. 4.1 Peatland Carbon cycle


 In this report Natural England:

  • Review the available evidence and summarise the carbon storage and sequestration rates of different semi-natural habitats with an indication of the range of values and the associated degree of confidence.
  • Facilitate the comparison of carbon storage and sequestration rates between semi-natural habitats.
  • Apply evidence to England. The main focus has been on evidence gathered on British ecosystems, but Natural England have also included studies from other regions, particularly north west Europe, where they are relevant and helpful.
  • Identify key evidence gaps in order to highlight where there is need for future research to support land use and land management decisions for carbon.
  • Provide those working in land management, conservation and policy with relevant information required to underpin decisions relating carbon in semi-natural habitats.


Read the full report


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