Updated: Feb 18
In July 2019 the Crowther Institute published a paper “The global tree restoration potential” which highlighted that tree planting at a global scale could form a cost effective means of offsetting carbon emissions and combating climate change. The Crowther team had used mapping techniques and earth observational data couple with Artificial Intelligence to consider where trees could be planted in suitable growing conditions and where land was available and they concluded that 0.9 billion hectares of trees could be planted to offset 25% of the worlds carbon emissions. This spawned the 1 trillion trees campaign and work is underway.
Ed Cooper the founder of BioCap founder read this report and wondered what the UK’s response should be to such a report – fund the tree planting elsewhere, or do our bit on our patch. Ed instinctively felt that there should be a local response and contribution to what should be a global effort. Researching what the UK was doing brought him the conclusion that here was a lot of strategising and planning but not much actual work going on, on the ground. The existing organisations; Gov, agencies, charities, and not for profits seem to be outdoing each other with documents calling for action but nobody appeared prepared to develop an actual plan that could be implemented. In effect a systemic failure to bring about any action.
Ed felt that a few elements could come together to bring about real change: leaving the EU and the shakeup of the agricultural payments system, people power, true accountability for the agricultural sector through the public money for public goods principal, the recognition of nature based interventions as a valid means to capture carbon, and a recognition of the value of open space and nature.
What was needed was a coherent and holistic plan for the countryside that people could support, farmers and landowners could understand and contribute towards and a mechanism for delivering the works set out in the plan. Importantly the plan needs to be based upon robust local data that is relevant at a field scale. Ideally the methodology for developing the plan would be scaleable and repeatable across the UK.
In April 2020 Ed formed BioCap Ltd as a not for profit company by guarantee to;
· Gather together all the relevant data for West Berkshire
· Produce an “Opportunity Map” for West Berkshire which indicates what to do where in the West Berkshire Countryside to offset carbon and reverse rise biodiversity loss in the region
· Build a local community presence that understands the Opportunity map and supports its implementation
· Liaise with landowners and create a link between landowners and the emerging new sources of funding to implement the work which might encompass; tree planting, natural flood management, habitat creation and restoration, linking of habitats, wetland creation and maybe more.
· Provide a local carbon offset model for the community to offset carbon in local projects.
· Use technology to automate the mapping process and data collection to aid the replication of the model in other areas
· Work in partnership with other agencies to bring about the work and secure the necessary funding
On the 6th April the Governments Natural Capital Committee published a report “Advice on using nature based interventions to each net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050”. This report recognised the lack of national coordinated response and called for local action and provided authoritative back up for BioCaps approach.
BioCap has set up the West Berkshire Natural Environment Meet-up group – https://www.meetup.com/West-Berkshires-Natural-Environment-Meetup-Group as a forum for discussion and place where people can get involved in understanding and planning our local response to climate and biodiversity crises. The next online event (via Zoom) is on the evening of the 30th September, where, one of the UK’s leading climate change scientists from Natural England, Dr Mike Morecroft will explore the use of nature based interventions, such as woodland creation, to capture carbon and enhance biodiversity.
BioCap and the owners of Englefield and Wasing Estates are now developing a project with Soarizon and IM Geospatial to collate data from maps, satellites and drones and look at using AI and ML to develop opportunity maps.
The World Wildlife Fund for Natures Living Planet Report, https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-gb/, is a scary wakeup call highlighting the tragic loss of wildlife across the globe. We can make a difference in our own local countryside and BioCap is setting out do just that.