Climate Change and the Heritage Sector
Climate change is a threat to heritage affecting buildings, cultural practices but also nature and landscapes. Its impacts can be seen not only in historic buildings exposed to erosion, sea level rise or flooding but also in forests and wetlands which are threatened by higher temperatures and loss of biodiversity.
Internationally, climate risk has been recognised by UNESCO one of the most significant threats to World Heritage properties. In the UK, World Heritage UK, Historic England and National Trust and other agencies are developing and implementing plans to address this threat and protect their sites from climate change.
Talk at the Berkshire Gardens Trust
The Berkshire Gardens Trust welcomed Dr Elena Saggioro, Research Fellow at the Walker Institute in the University of Reading on 14 November 2023 to give a lecture on the topic of climate change in historic parks and gardens. The Walker Institute has worked in partnership with Historic England and the National Trust looking at climate adaptation planning tools and techniques to support and inform future heritage site management.
Dr Saggioro talked about climate change in Berkshire, whose impact have led to warmer and drier summers, unprecedented torrential rainfall events and sudden cold spells for the area. She then highlighted some of the climate impacts on parks, gardens, animals and wildlife. Some of the adaptation options for parks and gardens presented were:
- Plant new heat and drought-tolerant plants
- Flood control via tree planting (e.g., on moorlands where appropriate)
- Water butts and tanks to capture and store excess (winter) rainfall for later irrigation (keep in shade, clean regularly to avoid algal growth)
- Reuse domestic wastewater (“grey water”) for watering plants, if not using strong cleaning products (but use readily, not store)
- Plant in Autumn so roots can develop in the wetter winter
- Improve soil humus levels and reduce need for watering via by adding organic matter either as a top dressing, mulch or digging it in.
- Monitor and eradicate promptly old and new pests
- Monitor trees at risk of falling due to heavy winds/storms
There was a lively Q&A and discussion following the talk. Attendees shared their concerns on the changing climate and the impact it is having on historic gardens in Berkshire. Starting from the ideas on possible adaptation options shared by Elena in her talk, the pros and cons of introducing new plants were discussed, as well as protecting nature in the context of new housing development. An interesting outlook was proposed by one of the participants, suggesting not to resist the change that is to come but to try and embrace it and take also the opportunities for rethinking landscapes that come with it.
You can find more information on the Zoom lecture and the Berkshire Gardens Trust here.