New Research into Heather on North Yorkshire's Moors
8:14am 28th March 2013
Guardians of 850,000 acres of precious UK heather moorland have welcomed major government-backed blanket bog management research.
Moorland Association members say the five-year project commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is expected to shed new light on complex ecological issues.
Chairman, Robert Benson, explained that Britain had three quarters of the world’s upland heather moorland, largely protected by grouse moor management.
He welcomed in-depth explorations of blanket bog areas and said they hosted some of the country’s most valuable habitats, home to several endangered species.
The moors of Yorkshire have over 185,000 acres of blanket bog; 31% of the blanket bog in England.
“Active peat growth helps slow down global warming by trapping carbon and upland peat also filters up to 70 per cent of our drinking water,” added Mr Benson.
“The Defra supported work will help develop future practises and perceptions for the stewardship of moorland and farming. It will consider biodiversity, drinking water quality and future carbon storage.”
Stockholm Environment Institute’s researcher Dr Andreas Heinemeyer is heading the catchment-scale project through the University of York, in collaboration with the Yorkshire Peat Partnership.
He explained: “This is an exciting opportunity to investigate blanket bog management in relation to key natural benefits and resources we gain from the moorland ecosystem.
“There are a lot of ‘known unknowns’ to be unearthed! The key to success is partnership working and co-operation from those with a special interest, including land users, government agencies and conservation bodies.
“We will gather much needed data which could help refine future land management techniques.
Cumbrian-based Robert Benson said a collaborative project was ultimately the only way to protect the globally renowned tracts of countryside.
“The Moorland Association has vast practical expertise and recognises the importance of a sensitive and balanced approach.”
He added: “Continuing to safeguard these unique and beautiful landscapes is critical on so many fronts and worth £67 million a year from English grouse moors alone.”
“Fragile plants and birds depend on it. Countless visitors enjoy the peace and tranquillity and with all the potential climate change benefits, working together for a sustainable future has never been so crucial.”
Three Moorland Association member sites have been set up and wide-ranging research is being carried out. One site is in Nidderdale, and one is in the Yorkshire Dales.
The ability of peat to store carbon, provide clean water, and support heather and its precious wildlife are all under the microscope.
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