Recently, there has been a call to plant more trees in our local area. (Which is much needed, given how many trees, (including the whole of Sauchiebank Woods) have been destroyed to make a new cycle-path.)
There has been less than subtle pressure from some quarters that the North Merchiston Cemetery Friends Group should plant loads of trees in the grassland areas of the cemetery.
This ignores the fact that semi-natural grassland, such as found in the cemetery, is a fairly rare habitat, particularly in our local area. These types of grasslands support a range of plants and fungi that would be lost if the area were to be turned into woodland, Common Spotted Orchid and Parrot Waxcap fungi to name just two. The more common species found in the cemetery grassland, such as the White Clover pictured above, support a range of insects and birds, contributing to the rich biodiversity of the cemetery.
Grassland butterflies across Europe declined 36% in the decade 2010-2020 (see this article). This inderlines the importance of species rich grasslands for insect biodiversity.
The biodiversity crisis we're living through is as urgent as the climate crisis, but too often all attention gets paid to the latter. However, research shows that grasslands are themselves valuable as a potential natural solution to climate change:
"Species-rich grasslands are huge carbon stores and when managed carefully they lock in carbon and boost biodiversity.
Grasslands have a huge potential for locking up carbon, not only due to the plants we can see on the surface, but also due to the relationships between the plants, fungi, bacteria and many other species which help enrich the soil with carbon."
This quote comes from the Wildlife Trusts' website, you can read the whole article here.
So, grasslands and woodlands are both valuable habitats and just as we shouldn't be destroying woodlands to build cycle-paths, nor should we be converting species rich grasslands to woodlands.
For Nature Notes.