Hedges in the UK are currently protected under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, removal can be granted by local authorities. But how aware are we and our council about the importance of hedgerows?
Scientists have reported that in just seven days a 1-metre length of the well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500-mile drive. Hedgerows play a significant role in reducing the rate of climate change, through carbon storage. A new hedgerow may store 600 – 800 kg of CO2 equivalent per year per km, for up to 20 years.
A recent article by the Guardian newspaper stated that ‘as the climate crisis escalates, hedgerows are expected to become even more important as highways for wildlife as they move in response to environmental change. Their deep roots also help sequester carbon, and the UK’s Committee on Climate Change 2019 report suggested the hedgerow network be ex- tended by 40% as part of the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.
Hedges are habitats in their own right and create a different habitat from trees, they are arguable of equal importance in our towns and villages in fighting our climate and ecological crisis. Not only does it provide shelter, a food supply and a breeding site for insects, rodents and birds, but they provide a green corridor and safe passageway linking up to other areas of vegetation that wildlife can migrate between. Hedges are much more environmentally friendly than walls or fences. Hedges make great boundary markers because they reduce noise and pollution from traffic, they create windbreaks and form excellent security barriers.
As well as carbon capture and homes for wildlife, hedges in urban areas contribute to services such as climate regulation, sustainable urban drainage, reducing airborne particulates and atmospheric pollution. They also improve the aesthetic appearance of the built environment which has been proven to enhance mental health and wellbeing.
In some areas across Colchester, pollution levels are exceeding national guidelines. Air pollution can have short term and long-term health issues for people, as well as having impacts on the environment and the economy. Air pollution reduces life expectancy and is linked to 1 in 20 deaths in Colchester. The main source of this pollution as we know is exhaust fumes from cars.
It is therefore vital we concentrate efforts on preserving all established hedges and creating new ones where ever we can.
All the best,
Grace Darke of Eco Colchester