Gardening ‘can hold back climate change’

Gardens can provide localised areas of cooler temperatures in the urban context of global warming.

This is according to head of science at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Roger Williams, who emphasised he was not suggesting the activity can reduce the heat island effect or overall city temperature, but it definitely can provide cooler pockets.

Speaking on a Financial Times Science podcast, he also expressed an interest in the development of wildlife corridors linking green areas in urban landscapes with the surrounding rural countryside.

He explained flood risk is also mitigated by planting – which it is not by extensive areas of concrete – in addition to creating increased biodiversity that is also beneficial to the environment.

Mr Williams claimed gardeners are starting to notice climate change in terms of the impact of the weather, adding more people are making use of his organisation's phone-in advisory service for help with problems related to this ecological development.

As an immediate or short-term impact, this was differentiated from long-term trends but does mean there is now an increasingly receptive audience prepared to engage in open discussion about these issues and consider the need to adapt lifestyles accordingly.

On the role of science in gardening and more specifically the RHS, Mr Williams explained the institution represents a heritage of science and horticulture, citing Charles Darwin as a founding member of the organisation.

"What we are focusing on particularly now are three key areas. One is to do with the science that underpins horticulture itself and the advisory service that we offer to our members. The second area is around gardens and the environment and the third area is to do with gardens and wildlife," the expert remarked, adding while the latter topics may seem tangential, they are of growing importance.

The society noted the Indian summer recently experienced nationwide has caused plants to blossom later than usual and this will become more common with climate change. 

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