UK Urban Ecology Forum

Partner Member UN Habitat Assembly Global Stakeholders Forum (GSF)

Landlife: Soil Inversion Works

Soil Inversion Works is a technical guide to creating new habitats that addresses climate change impacts, eutrophication and environmental justice issues. It is based on six years’ practical research on 150 hectares (35 sites) across the UK. The technique was developed and carried out by Landlife funded by Defra, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the John Ellerman Foundation.

The results of soil inversion techniques

Landlife’s soil inversion technique involves a simple intervention – totally inverting a metre of soil by deep ploughing and sowing wildflowers – something that has never been done before. Work is targeted on land of low ecological value in lowland Britain involving national partners such as the Woodland Trust. By getting the starting point right, sites evolve into new habitats.

This project is significant because it:

  • Creates suitable conditions for new woods to adapt to climate change by holding moisture at depth and promoting deeper rooting.
  • Reduces annual herbicide usage by burying weed seed banks at depth.
  • Buries carbon, thereby reducing its release from weathering organic matter
  • Results in significantly improved tree growth and survival rates
  • Creates low nutrient conditions for biodiverse habitat, including heathland, sand dune, culm grassland and open mosaic habitat.
  • Can be used to establish wetland ditches and varied topography.
  • Creates stunning floristic meadows that excite and enthuse people.

Surveys show subsoil sites gaining 60 new flora species in a decade, whilst bird data also confirms impressive gains for Biodiversity Action Plan species. The number of breeding pairs on a site on Merseyside increased from 7 to 52 over a four-year period. Similar positive results for invertebrates and small mammals, demonstrate that these sites rapidly become part of the food chain.

This creative conservation work is hugely popular with local communities who have posted videos, poems and paintings of the wildflowers on the web.

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