Role of Nature
Natural environments play an important role in the global greenhouse gas cycle through the removal and storage of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The Isle of Man Government has recognised that to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a long-term programme of land use management for carbon sequestration will be required.
Nature and biodiversity, through ecosystems services, provide an abundance of benefits to human life as we know it. However, both natural resources and biodiversity are disappearing at an alarming rate, even in the United Kingdom.
Regardless of global agreements (such as the Convention on Biological Diversity) attempts to prevent and reverse these losses are failing as countless species continue to be pushed to the brink of extinction. To achieve the global climate commitments in keeping temperature increase below 2°C, reversing the loss of nature and biodiversity is critical.
Protection and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity are now acknowledged as key elements for climate action, supporting both emissions removals and also adaptation and resilience. Embedding ecosystems and biodiversity in our climate action plan will help us reach our net zero target and bring diverse co-benefits. Evidence of the Islands commitment to address this issue can be seen in the work currently being undertaken.
1. Peatland Restoration
Due to their capacity to sequester and store carbon peatlands have the potential to contribute significantly to the Isle of Man’s net-zero emissions goal. This initial project aims to restore the natural function of 1000 acres of peatland.
By focussing restoration efforts on the most degraded sites, areas that are currently a source of GHG emissions, these areas will eventually become carbon sinks. The restoration site, located in the catchment area of the Sulby Reservoir, will also provide an unseen water regulation function with considerable direct value to the Islands water security and lead to rainwater being stored and gradually released mitigating flood risk.
2. tree planting projects
Keyll yn Phobble (People's Wood)
Establishing a predominantly native mixed woodland of 75,000 trees, has been one of the flagship nature-based projects of the Islands’ Phase 1 Action Plan.
The woodland, located at Meary Veg on a site covering 46ha, is expected to deliver numerous benefits during growth and upon maturity, these include:
- increased carbon sequestration
- increased biodiversity
- reduced surface water flow
- increased recreational opportunities.
Following initial planting of what is a challenging site, many trees suffered rabbit damage or competition from significant weed growth, which contributed to an initial low success rate. In the 2023 planting season, the Forestry team have undertaken additional planting of 9000 native Manx broadleaves and 1000 Scots pine trees, focussing on planting in sheltered areas where trees are likely to have better chance of survival. Further planting is planned in the coming years to replace trees that have not established, with current and planned work focussed on weed control, installing tree shelters and maintaining the site for public access. As a result of this work, many trees, oak in particular, which was previously suffering poor growth, is now establishing well and the developing woodland has an excellent chance of delivering long-term benefits.
The woodland planting project at Greeba started in 2022, with two sites initially planted and another two new areas planted in 2023. 5180 native Manx broadleaved trees and 350 Scots pine trees have been planted over an areas of approximately 4.81ha. The trees are establishing well, with a small amount of loss (less than 10-20%) as is expected in new tree planting projects. Ongoing checks are undertaken by Forestry staff to ensure good growth, with control of bracken the main focus for maintenance over the next 2 to 3 years.
Both projects have used new 100% biodegradable tree shelters supplied by Tubex which will be continually monitored and assessed over the establishment phase to ascertain their effectiveness and longevity to support early tree growth and ultimately their rate of decomposition.
Incentives for woodland planting also exist for farmed land, as part of the Agri-Environment Scheme: Isle of Man Government - Agri-Environment Initiatives Grant Scheme
3. Land-use and land-use change and forestry
A land-use and land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) project was completed at the end of 2022, which will quantifies the estimated total terrestrial carbon exchange occurring on the Island’s land area. The project included a framework from which to accurately track land use change and the associated changes in emissions. As new data is acquired, through various assessments (e.g. habitats and soils), the estimations of carbon exchange can be updated and will assist us in understanding how our emissions / sequestration are changing over time.
Ongoing and future projects
1. Land Management Framework
The Island’s land resources are finite and increasingly faces competing priorities for their use. These include maximising nature-based carbon sequestration, restoring nature, increasing biodiversity, creating clean energy, adapting to climate change, growing food, building houses, ensuring essential services are well provided, and delivering access to recreational areas and green spaces. To make our limited land work for communities, businesses and nature we need a Land Management Framework, bringing together different disciplines of research, data and evidence to guide our decision-making process so that we balance competing pressures in deciding what is best for our land.
A Land Management Framework for the whole Island will be commissioned in the near future (end 2023), to be completed by end 2025. This work will include production of a Plan to maximise carbon sequestration and maintain and restore biodiversity and wider ecosystem services, in line with the Isle of Man Climate Change Plan (2022 – 2027). A key part of the work is collaboration with stakeholders to ensure that decision-making processes bring together views from across local, urban and rural communities and varied expertise, building shared understanding.
2. The Manx Blue Carbon Project
In the same way as terrestrial carbon sinks (e.g. peatland, trees), blue carbon habitats in marine and coastal environments - including saltmarsh and seagrass - offer an opportunity to support natural carbon sequestration, and to include these in our future our greenhouse gas accounting.
The Manx Blue Carbon Project will work with stakeholders and partners to design a comprehensive and holistic Strategic Blue Carbon Management Plan for the Isle of Man by February 2025. The plan will inform and guide future marine activities in order to maximise the blue carbon in our marine and coastal environment.
The plan will include:
- An inventory of blue carbon environments in and around the Isle of Man, of the biodiversity they support and the other ecosystem functions they deliver;
- Threats and risks to Manx blue carbon habitats, and measures to minimise or manage these risks;
- Identifying 'hot spots' for protection, and potential for restoration and expansion of blue carbon habitats;
- A long-term monitoring plan to assess the health and carbon capacity of blue carbon areas;
- Suggestions for integrating blue carbon into wider marine spatial planning for the Isle of Man, and other key government plans and strategies.