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CR 45:3-12 (2010)  -  DOI:

Climate change and the British Uplands: evidence for decision-making

Jo I. House1,*, Harriet G. Orr2, Joanna M. Clark3,4,5, Angela V. Gallego-Sala1,9, Chris Freeman3, I. Colin Prentice1,4,6,7, Pete Smith8

1QUEST, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Queen’s Road, Bristol BS8 1HB, UK
2Evidence Directorate, Environment Agency, Environment Centre Wales, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK
3Wolfson Carbon Capture Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Environment Centre Wales, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK
4Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ, UK
5Walker Institute, Soils Research Centre, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6DW, UK
6Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales 2109, Australia
7Division of Biology, Imperial College, Silwood Park, Ascot SL5 7PY, UK
8Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, 3 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, Scotland, UK
9Present address: Ecosystem Sciences, Division of Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, University of Lund, Sölvegatan 12, 223 62 Lund, Sweden

ABSTRACT: We summarise the work of an interdisciplinary network set up to explore the impacts of climate change in the British Uplands. In this CR Special, the contributors present the state of knowledge and this introduction synthesises this knowledge and derives implications for decision makers. The Uplands are valued semi-natural habitats, providing ecosystem services that have historically been taken for granted. For example, peat soils, which are mostly found in the Uplands, contain around 50% of the terrestrial carbon in the UK. Land management continues to be a driver of ecosystem service delivery. Degraded and managed peatlands are subject to erosion and carbon loss with negative impacts on biodiversity, carbon storage and water quality. Climate change is already being experienced in British Uplands and is likely to exacerbate these pressures. Climate envelope models suggest as much as 50% of British Uplands and peatlands will be exposed to climate stress by the end of the 21st century under low and high emissions scenarios. However, process-based models of the response of organic soils to this climate stress do not give a consistent indication of what this will mean for soil carbon: results range from a very slight increase in uptake, through a clear decline, to a net carbon loss. Preserving existing peat stocks is an important climate mitigation strategy, even if new peat stops forming. Preserving upland vegetation cover is a key win–win management strategy that will reduce erosion and loss of soil carbon, and protect a variety of services such as the continued delivery of a high quality water resource.

KEY WORDS: British Uplands · Climate change · Peat · Soil carbon · Water quality · Ecosystem service · Management

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Cite this article as: House JI, Orr HG, Clark JM, Gallego-Sala AV, Freeman C, Prentice IC, Smith P (2010) Climate change and the British Uplands: evidence for decision-making. Clim Res 45:3-12.

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