Kew Gardens promises increased focus on nature-based climate solutions and biodiversity restoration

Kew's Royal Botanic Gardens in London are home to the world's largest living plant collection

Earlier this year, the organisation published a manifesto for change through to 2030, including commitments to achieve a net-positive climate impact operationally and to  improve communications and partnerships to tackle the twin climate and nature crises.

Kew’s five-year science strategy, published today (28 September), provides more information on how it will use its sites, activities, processes, partnerships, research and education schemes to deliver its manifesto.

“Life on Earth is in peril,” the strategy states. “Never before have so many challenges manifested themselves so clearly and intensively.”

According to WWF’s 2020 Living Planet report, animal population sizes have declined by an average of 68% since 1970. Drivers of biodiversity loss include land-use change, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution and climate change; indeed, the UN’s scientific bodies for nature and climate change are urging a more interconnected approach to solving these crises.

Detailed in Kew’s strategy are plans to expand research into biodiversity and ecosystem protection and conservation, in a manner that also improves climate resilience and improves human health and wellbeing. Kew has promised “innovative research” in these fields.

There are also plans to more deeply research plant and fungus traits, that scientists can better understand how they can be used in conservation and restoration projects, and plans to improve digital data collection and management, that Kew’s collections may be more easily used externally for conservation and education.

“The next few years provide a closing window of opportunity for societies to protect and sustainably use Earth’s remaining biodiversity and to restore what we have degraded,” said Kew’s director of science Professor Alexandre Antonelli.

“Science can provide answers to many of the challenges we face. The useful properties of plants and fungi are largely untapped and hold the potential to bring equitable benefits to people and nature.

“In this new Science Strategy, RBG Kew lays out an ambitious plan for how we can capitalise on our core assets – our unparalleled living and preserved collections, our world-class scientists and cutting-edge data – to deliver true benefits to people, the environment and the scientific community over the next five years and beyond.”

Governmental approach

The strategy from Kew comes after the UN General Assembly and ahead of the official opening of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, which will take place online from 11-15 October. That event will include High-Level Segment discussions that will aim to produce a “Kunming Declaration” on a global biodiversity agreement. The Declaration will be ratified after in-person negotiations, which have been pushed back to spring 2022 due to Covid-19.

A draft version of the Declaration has already been published by the UN. The overarching aim is to protect at least 30% of terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030, by which point biodiversity loss will need to be halted.

Nations have collectively failed to deliver the UN’s pre-2020 Aichi Targets on biodiversity.

In an effort to change this track record domestically, the UK Government this week confirmed funding for a string of forest creation schemes.

Also announced by the UK’s Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) this week were its plans for allocating the £100m Biodiverse Landscapes Fund, which was first announced in September 2019 and is intended to preserve some of the world’s most globally significant biodiversity hotspots.

Locations set to benefit from funding include Madagascar, the Andes Amazon, the Congo Basin, Mesoamerica, Lower Mekong and the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The global population of animals is plummeting faster than at any time in human history and precious habitats and species are being wiped off our planet.

“We are at a tipping point and we must act now – right now – to turn the tide of this environmental crisis before it is too late.

“Our Biodiverse Landscapes Fund will invest in six of the most environmentally critical landscapes, spanning 18 countries across the globe, to help to combat climate change and protect rare and endangered species.”

COP26 Primer: Nature-based solutions

With COP26 on the horizon, edie has completed its Primer Report series which provides businesses with everything they need to know regarding the five key themes of the talks.

The Primer Report on Nature-based Solutions is sponsored by the Woodland Trust and examines how crucial nature-based solutions are, not just in responding to the climate crisis, but also in addressing the ecological breakdown that is exacerbating across the globe. 

Click here to download your free copy.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Andy Kadir-Buxton says:

    Crow’s Footing Increases Crop Yields By 15%

    For those keen on agriculture I would like to draw your attention to ‘Crow’s Footing,’ which is a way of planting seeds that was told to me by my grandfather, Stanley Buxton. Instead of planting seeds in a set distance between rows we can use equilateral triangles to plant the seeds. The rows are closer together but the seed rows are planted out of sync with the rows on either side. In this way he found it possible to increase food production by 15% on his market garden. This is an interesting statistic for those with ‘green fingers’ and I have been campaigning to have it used in the Third World for many years. Not only can the amount of ‘cash crops’ be increased, but more importantly, so can subsistence crops, which are much more important.

    Mathematical Proof

    We must subtract the triangle are used from the square area used, so we must use Pythagoras to work out the distance between rows of a crop planted in triangles, the unit of length being the distance that any particular plant has to be away from any other.

    Height of a triangle can be worked out:

    a squared + b squared (the height) = c squared

    b squared = c squared a squared

    b squared = 1 squared- 0.5 squared

    b squared = 1 0.25

    b squared = 0.75

    b = square root of 0.75

    b= 0.866

    Given that the distance between plants is the same whether planted in squares or triangles then:

    1-0.866 = 0.134

    Thus reducing size of earth needed by 13.4%, which means that:

    1 / 0.866 approximately equals 1.155, or 15% crop increase

    For example, a field of 100 x 100 units ( a unit being the distance between plants) could have 10,000 square planted plants, but a field of the same size planted in equilateral triangles could have 10,000 divided by 0.866 = 11547 plants, an increase of 1,547 plants. Who needs expensive Genetically Modified crops (1.7% crop increase) with that free increase?

    It must be noted that if a crop only has two rows, then there will be no benefit in cropping in equilateral triangles if there are seven or less plants in each row due to the edge of the triangle at each end wasting a small amount of space, any greater cultivated area than this gives an advantage.

    Planting Method for Maximum Plant Size

    Plants in the UK usually begin life in compost, which is good for seedling’s growth because it is soft, and thus is easier on the roots. The problem for plant growth comes when those planting the young plants plant them in the relatively hard soil at a later date; this is because the roots have difficulty adjusting to the hard soil, and thus the adult plants will be stunted. To get a larger adult plant we need to mix compost with the soil they are going to be planted into in equal measures, this will give the roots time to toughen up in the mixture before they meet the hard soil later; this gives a larger plant and thus will increase crop production.`

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