The natural environment and climate change
The natural environment has a critical role to play in addressing climate change.
Trees, plants and even the soil absorb and lock away carbon helping to mitigate against the impact of climate change. They also provide other essential services that help us adapt to the effects of our changing climate including regulating the local temperature, providing shade and shelter, improving air quality and reducing the likelihood of flooding by absorbing and slowing down water.
Healthy ecosystems can provide 37 per cent of the mitigation needed to limit global temperature rise. Damaged ecosystems release carbon instead of storing it.
- The United Nations
But the natural environment is also threatened by climate change. After habitat loss caused by humans, climate change is one of the key threats to biodiversity with more animal and plant species now threatened with extinction than ever before in human history, many within decades. It is therefore essential that we conserve and sustainably managing our natural environment.
The landscape of Medway is made up of many different habitats which all play a vital role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. These include trees and woodland, meadows, parks, private gardens, salt marsh and the river Medway.
Did you know...
of the Medway area is of national importance for biodiversity
of the Medway area is of international importance for biodiversity
These figures are significantly greater than the country’s average which is at about 7%.
Below are some of the ways in which we are working to protect and enhance our natural environment:
Medway supports the Kent Biodiversity Strategy 2020 to 2045 which aims to deliver the maintenance, restoration and creation of habitats that are thriving with wildlife and plants and ensure that the county’s terrestrial, freshwater, intertidal and marine environments regain and retain good health.
The Kent Biodiversity Strategy clearly sets out our intentions to champion the natural world and deliver a healthy environment for Kent and Medway’s wildlife.
We are also engaging with Kent County Council, through the Kent Nature Partnership, to commission an updated study on the State of Nature in Kent. The study will identify where resources need to be targeted to enhance biodiversity and also seek opportunities to mitigate against climate change.
The Environment Act that became law in November 2021 also places a duty on local councils to develop and promote Local Biodiversity Recovery Networks and the work of the State of Nature in Kent report, due for publication in spring 2022, will be an important element in enabling those recovery networks.
Green and blue infrastructure is the network of our natural green and water (blue) environments such as woodlands, parks, the River Medway, street trees and gardens which provide environmental, social and economic benefits including the potential to deliver climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The draft of Medway’s Green and Blue Infrastructure Framework sets out and assesses Medway’s strategic network of green and blue infrastructure and provides priorities and future actions to be delivered.
Medway Council acknowledges the importance of trees in our environment and increasing tree cover plays a role in the council’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions across Medway by 2050.
In partnership with the Medway Urban Greenspaces Forum, we worked with a team of volunteers to measure the canopy cover of trees across Medway in 2020. Tree canopy cover describes the layer of leaves, branches and stems when viewed from above.
Medway was found to have 16.5% tree cover, with 20.9% in our urban areas. This is in comparison to 13.2% nationally (Woodland Trust).
This information has helped us to understand what we need to plant and where and measure the benefits provided by existing and new trees in Medway.
A Medway Tree and Woodland Strategy has been drafted and is going through an approval process.
We’re planting a new generation of trees.
We planted over approximately 11,000 trees across Medway in 2020 to 2021 thanks to funding from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund. We continue to plant trees every winter, supported by volunteers from the local community including the council's friends groups who help to look after greenspaces across Medway.
We are undertaking a feasibility study to transform the old Cozenton Nursery site back into a tree nursery and environmental volunteering hub. You will be able to read more about our plans here as they develop.
You can support tree planting in Medway by:
Medway has 1900 hectares of open space which includes 148 urban parks.
We have been working to create more wildlife habitats around Medway by reducing mowing frequency on a number of grass verges and in areas of our parks and greenspaces. This has been creating naturalised verges in Medway.
We support the work of friends of groups and volunteers and the Medway Urban Greenspace Forum working to protect and enhance our greenspaces.
The River Medway will be affected by climate change in many ways including habitat loss and coastal erosion.
There are several ways in which environmental action on the river is being supported:
- we currently host the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership (MSEP), a not-for-profit organisation whose work is centred around the understanding, conservation, and promotion of the estuary’s natural and cultural heritage
- we have been working to support beach cleans along the river. Beach cleans are also run by MSEP and the Living River Foundation
- we have analysed the River Medway to better understand which sections of the riverbanks are accessible as footpaths and cycleways.
Here in Medway, we're lucky to have the Medway estuary and marshes on our doorstep. The variety of habitats including saltmarsh, mudflats, shingle beaches and seagrass provides the perfect feeding ground for a diverse range of wildlife.
Every year, thousands of ducks, geese, and wading birds travel thousands of miles, from as far afield as the Arctic, to spend the winter months feeding and resting along our coastline. In spring, they fly north back to the arctic to breed and other birds, such as gulls, terns and nightingales arrive to mate, nest, and raise their young in Medway and the surrounding north Kent marshes.
Many of these birds are considered vulnerable and are on the red and amber lists for conservation concern, so they depend on our coastline for their survival. Because of this, the coastline is protected as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under international designations.
If you want to learn more about the amazing birds you can see along the Medway estuary throughout the year, Bird Wise are here to help. On their website you will find plenty of information on different bird species, places to see them, and how you and your family can enjoy the coast without disturbing wildlife.
The Bird Wise team also organise guided walks for people new to birdwatching throughout the winter months.
Details of these walks can be found on the events section of their website and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by following @birdwisenk.
You can also enjoy our river and coastline by:
- volunteering or going on one of the Living River Foundation organised events
- visiting and walking our new section of the England Coast Path
- visiting our piers in Medway.
Growing your own food can help towards reducing greenhouse gases produced by mass agricultural production and the transport and packing of produce.
We are working to ensure more residents have access to allotments through better allocation of existing spaces and the identification of new community growing spaces.
Climate change and the environment is one of the 5 subgroups addressed by the Medway Food Partnership.
The vision for this subgroup is to:
- help reduce food waste in Medway
- promote healthier and more sustainable food
- facilitate growing spaces
- encourage community engagement and ownership.
Your own outdoor space
Whether you have a garden, a balcony or a windowsill, it is possible to use your own outdoor space at home to help address climate change and support wildlife. Small changes could help increase the level of carbon absorbed in your own back garden as well as help to cool the environment around your house on hot days.
- plant a tree
- let an area of your lawn grow long
- grow plants to attract pollinators
- grow food
- consider permeable options (a material that allows liquids for gasses to pass through it) when installing hard surfaces
- consider a green roof on your shed or even your house.
Check out some suggestions in our monthly gardening blog.
A chaffinch, scientific name: Fringella coelebs
Peacock butterfly, scientific name: Aglais io
Working in partnership
Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT): Darland Banks and Nashenden Down
Darland Banks is the KWT’s most diverse reserve. It is home to the largest population of man orchids in the country. Nashenden Down has been transformed from an arable field into a nature reserve hosting an impressive species list.
Plantlife: Ranscombe Farm Reserve
We are working closely with Plantlife to protect and manage Ranscombe Farm Reserve.