The Mersey Forest continues to play a key role in the region's response to climate change. As part of the North West Climate Change Action Plan we are exploring, together with Manchester's Red Rose Forest, the potential for green infrastructure to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts in North West England.
Green infrastructure is the network of green and blue spaces within and between our cities, towns and villages. It can help to both reduce levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (climate change mitigation) and to enable us to better cope with climate impacts that are now already inevitable (climate change adaptation).
Green infrastructure can help reduce greenhouse gases through the production of biofuels to replace fossil fuels; the production of timber to replace materials with higher embedded energy; local food production reducing 'food miles'; carbon storage and sequestration (the 'locking up' of carbon dioxide within plants); and providing local recreation opportunities and alternative transport corridors which reduce the need to travel by car.
In the UK where climate projections suggest warmer wetter winters and hotter drier summers, with more extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall the adaptation role of green infrastructure is perhaps more significant. It includes: managing urban temperatures to ensure that towns and cities continue to be attractive and comfortable places to live, work, visit and invest; reducing flood risk and managing surface water; allowing wildlife to move northwards to new 'climate spaces' through a better connected landscape; providing resources for a more outdoors lifestyle, and helping to divert pressure from landscapes which are sensitive to climate change.
The project will lead to the production of a regional Green Infrastructure Climate Change Action Plan in June 2010. Already you can explore the project's dedicated website, which features a searchable evidence base reviewing key research findings, supportive policies, and delivery projects; a report on the 'Critical Climate Change Functions of Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Economic Development in the North West'; and a report and presentations on 'Green Infrastructure and Hydrology'.
The Mersey Forest is also working on an EU-funded climate change project called ForeStClim (full title: Transnational Forestry Management Strategies in Response to Regional Climate Change Impacts). ForeStClim brings together 21 partners with a wide range of experts from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to develop regional forestry management and forest protection strategies in the face of expected climate change scenarios.