We have commissioned a series of Fact Sheets to demonstrate that commons make a greater contribution to the environment than any other farmland in Britain.
For many years we have suspected that commons provide more public benefits than any other agricultural land. Now we have the figures to prove it.
At one time commons occupied about half of Britain, whereas now they cover 1.2 million hectares, 5% of the country. The special importance of common land has developed following centuries of farmers gazing their livestock on stable, unploughed soils, free from chemical input. This has provided ideal conditions for the protection of thousands of ancient monuments, ranging from henges and stone circles to hill forts, and for the conservation of wildlife, including some of Britain’s rarest birds. Tens of millions of visitors each year, contributing to the tourist industry and local economies. Commons extend into the cities like London, where they provide scarce opportunities for relaxation and play.
Nearly all of Scottish commons, and 75% of those south of the border, are in the uplands. Extending to one million hectares, they form some iconic landscapes, closely associated with national parks. Upland commons have a significant role in mitigating climate change, having peat soils which store millions of tons of carbon. Britain has 12% of Europe’s peatlands, and half of all Scottish commons are on peat soils. Upland commons are also important in water provision and flood management. Their peat soils and mosses are sponges which prevent the rapid release of water which can cause floods downstream. Over 10% of all drinking water comes from common land.
These Fact sheets cover wildlife, archaeology, tourism, rare breeds, carbon storage, water supply, uplands, agriculture and water and flood management. They can be downloaded below.