Peatland (upland & heather-dominated Blanket Bog) - Management and Ecosystem Services in the UK
Please also see our website at: Ecological Continuity Trust (with other long-term monitoring sites - excellent work by the ECT!)
Peatland-ES-UK also features as a 'Living Labs & Lighthouses' on the UKSoil website (The community Hub for all things Soil)
This site has been created to inform you about:
The previously Defra funded peatland project BD5104 'Restoration of blanket bog vegetation for biodiversity, carbon sequestration and water regulation'. The project's Phase 1 initially ran from 2011 to 2017 with Phase 2 now under way until 2022 (i.e. another 5 years).
The final 5-year Defra report is available here.
The final 10-year PAG report is available here.
We are particularly grateful to Defra for funding the project's Phase 1 (£979k), to the Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) for being such a devoted project partner, and to the Moorland Association (MA) for being a very supportive Advisory Group member. We also express our thanks to Natural England (NE) which is providing valuable day-to-day guidance and support within this project. Finally, we would like to thank all the involved landowners, land users, and especially the gamekeepers and farmers for their patience and contributions. We very much appreciate your support!
We would like to acknowledge the Phase 2 extension with co-funding (£975k) from the MA, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), United Utilities (UU), Yorkshire Water Services (YWS), the Heather Trust (HT; via funding from the HD Wills Trust) and the Law Family Charitable Foundation (LFCF). We have also received some maintenance grants from the Ecological Continuity Trust (ECT). Further support was linked to 2 NERC iCASE PhDs (£185k) including support from the YPP (on peat chemistry) and NE (on soil microbes). We are currently mainly funded by NERC as part of the IdealUKFire project with further support from the ECT.
The overarching aim of this study is to:
Acquire experimental data to underpin the development and refinement of possible management techniques, for example, applicable through Environmental Stewardship schemes, to address the dominance of heather (Calluna vulgaris) and facilitate the support of ‘active’ blanket bog vegetation (with peat-forming species, particularly Sphagnum spp.).
This requires screening for the most suitable management techniques and then including those as part of a manipulative experiment to provide scientifically sound and meaningful data upon which to base policy advice and subsequently inform management decisions, considering both, environmental and socio-economic implications.
Considering the slow responses to any management change in a cold upland environment, a long-term approach is needed in order to capture ecologically meaningful and practitioner relevant trajectories in vegetation changes and impacts on ecosystem services. The second phase will allow such a longer-term perspective. This long-term aim was outlined by Defra in the original tender for the Phase 1 of the project. Any short-term findings (like those from the 5-year Defra report) should be used in context and not be used to inform long-term outcomes.
The unique approach in this project is the at three sites replicated BACI catchment-scale design including further management option plot-level replicates. This is the only such robust peatland study for comparing different vegetation management practices at appropriate temporal and spatial scales. As such it overcomes limitations of previous space-for-time and short-term studies.
We expect the major project outcomes to be to:
1. Provide in depth understanding of the management implications on key ecosystem services related to biodiversity, carbon, greenhouse gases and water.
2. Provide a cost benefit analysis based recommendation on the most feasible and best management regime for heather dominated blanket bogs, particularly in respect to environmental implications.
3. Achieve increased awareness of the ecosystem functioning and services provided by blanket bogs among stakeholders such as landowners, managers and associated user groups.
Notably, the above outcomes rely on the long-term monitoring of climate and management related impacts on vegetation, soil and hydrological parameters.
In addition to routine monitoring, two NERC-funded iCASE PhD projects were investigating soil microbial (NE) and chemical (YWS & YPP) processes underpinning carbon and water related ecosystem services.