Meet the FABLE UK team
The team is led by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and Oxford University. UKCEH delivers integrated research to determine the key components that support productive ecosystems and make them vulnerable or resilient to a broad range of stressors. UKCEH takes a whole systems approach to understanding the environment, how it sustains life, and the human impact upon it. The University of Oxford has an outstanding global reputation for its teaching, research and contributions to society.
The team's interests have been in distinguishing between improved and semi-natural grassland and semi-natural vs plantation forest. This distinction would allow for a more detailed assessment of the impact of land use change on biodiversity. Additionally, the team has focused on adapting the FABLE Calculator to the sub-national scale (downscaling) and improving the representation of grassland, forests, peatlands, biodiversity and agroecology. Furthermore, they are interested in investigating the spatial implications of scenarios by developing high-resolution, spatially-explicit models of the UK's food and land-use system, which will be integrated with global trade.
Model used by the team: FABLE Calculator.
Former member: Nicholas Leach.
Transforming food and land-use systems in the UK
In 2015, based on FAOSTAT land cover data, the UK's land composition consisted of 24% cropland, 46% grassland, 12% forest, 4% urban areas, and 12% other natural land. Arable land is concentrated in eastern, central, and southern England, while pasture dominates in western England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and southern Scotland. Forests and other natural land are dispersed throughout the country, with larger areas found in the upland regions of Wales, Scotland, northern England, and southwestern England.
Biodiversity in the UK faces multiple threats, including habitat fragmentation and loss due to housing and infrastructure development, pollution and nutrient enrichment from agriculture, pesticide use, climate change impacts, and invasive species.
In 2017, direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) accounted for 12% of the UK's total emissions. Enteric fermentation is the primary source of AFOLU emissions, followed by emissions from cropland, agricultural soils, manure management, and settlements. The high population density in the UK results in a significant proportion of land being occupied by farmland, leading to ongoing losses due to settlement expansion. Forest cover in the UK is gradually increasing, but existing woodlands are still lost due to major infrastructure development.
Obesity rates in the UK have been increasing since 1993, with 29% of adults and 15% of children classified as obese in 2018. Moreover, 63% of adults and 28% of children were overweight. National policies in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland should consider the importance of the Eatwell diet and related initiatives in reducing GHG emissions and protecting biodiversity. Evidence-based tools are available to support policymakers in this regard, and modeling consumer behavior will become increasingly important.
Supporting UK farmers, growers, and producers in transitioning to a sustainable food system is crucial. Encouraging a shift towards increased fruit and vegetable consumption presents an opportunity to expand the highly profitable sector in the UK. Biodiversity, agriculture, and forestry policies should consider the impact of large-scale afforestation on biodiversity and food production, prioritize the use of native species or natural regeneration, and align with nature recovery networks.
Effective protection of unprotected peatlands is essential to achieve benefits for both biodiversity and carbon sequestration. The 0.5 million hectares of nature recovery land outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan should be safeguarded through the planning system to prevent encroachment by development.
Key national objectives and targets