Meadows and other wildlife-rich grasslands are at the heart of sustainable farming systems, supporting an extraordinary diversity of wildflowers, fungi and other species alongside healthy, grass-fed livestock.
These permanent grasslands are also an immensely valuable, natural solution to climate change. The un-tilled and low-input soils of meadows and grasslands store around a third of the world’s land carbon and have low nitrogen emissions, making them a major asset in achieving ‘net zero’. Furthermore, undisturbed grassland soils capture and hold back water, reducing downstream flooding caused by extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency due to climate change.
However, these irreplaceable and critical habitats are under threat. Since the 1930s, over 97% of our meadows and other species-rich grasslands – a staggering 7.5 million acres – have been ploughed, agriculturally ‘improved’ or built on. This loss is a key driver in the declines of the wildlife that meadows support, especially wildflowers and invertebrates such as pollinators. The remaining areas of species-rich grasslands are increasingly fragmented – covering less than 1% of UK land – making it difficult for species to travel between them and adapt to our changing climate.
We need to reverse this trend. Globally, society needs to create and restore species-rich meadows and grasslands on a massive scale to repair the damage. Not only would this help mitigate climate change but it would increase biodiversity, support sustainable farming and ensure that these areas of natural beauty are preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Since its founding, Plantlife has been at the forefront of advocating for species-rich grasslands in the UK and supporting farmers and other land managers to return their grasslands to the best condition possible.
However, the UK landscape is only part of the picture, and so, this summer, Plantlife joined forces with the Butterfly Trust and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to found Grasslands+, a campaign to secure the protection and restoration of the planet’s grasslands, savannahs, plains, heaths, steppes and meadows. The Grasslands+ campaign will be active at COP26 in Glasgow with the objective of ensuring that species-rich grasslands are recognised as a nature-based solution by the UN and world leaders.
To support the campaign for species-rich grasslands and the recognition of them as a nature-based solution to climate change, please join the Grasslands+ campaign and raise your voice. For those in the UK, you can also write to your MP through the campaign’s website and ask for them to push for the restoration, maintenance and protection of our meadows.