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England's Hedges Could Wrap Around Earth Ten Times

England's hedgerows would stretch almost ten times around the Earth if lined up end to end. That's according to a new map - the most comprehensive to date - of these historic features of the landscape.

Hedges running across snowy English countryside

Often planted as boundary lines around areas like farm fields or gardens, hedges are much more than useful dividers. Culturally and historically important, they are teeming with life, provide landscape-scale connectivity and make an immense contribution to halting biodiversity decline and tackling climate change.

According to CFE, hedgerows sequester carbon above and below ground, both in woody growth and in soils. Estimates of the carbon stock of UK hedgerows (based upon above-ground biomass) range between about 15 tonnes of carbon per hectare for short hedges (1.5m height) and 30 to 40 tonnes for tall hedges (2.7m), with a similar amount of carbon in below-ground biomass.

Hedges that are also very good for wildlife, providing nesting sites, song posts, roosting sites, foraging habitat and corridors for movement. Some 600 plant, 1,500 insect, 65 bird and 20 mammal species have been recorded in hedgerows.

Ecologists hope the new data mapping the extent of England's hedgerows - al 243,000 miles (390,000km) of it - will lead to better protections for the much-loved lines of trees and shrubs that provide food and shelter for wildlife, and store large amounts of carbon. The South West boasts the most hedgerows, led by Cornwall.

In addition to the 390,000km of hedgerows (measuring between 1 and 6 metres in height), there are another 67,000 km of lower hedges and a further 185,000 km of overgrown hedges above 6m tall.

"We've probably got more hedgerows in England than anywhere else in the world so we're very lucky to have this huge resource," said Dr Richard Broughton of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who led the project. "As a national policy, we're trying to expand hedgerows in this country, and this will tell us where there are gaps in the hedgerow network that we could fill in."


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