March 5, 2010

Saving Peak District Moorlands

Seventy-five per cent of the world's heather moorlands are in the UK. However, pollution, overgrazing and wild fires have damaged large areas. Several organizations in the Peak District National Park are trying to restore and conserve the moorland habitat. As part of the Festival of Social Science organized by the Economic and Social Research Council (12-21 March 2010), the Peak District National Park Authority in Partnership with the National Trust and Moors for the Future is running a walk and a series of talks for the general public and local countryside professionals to share the research, practical techniques and successes of moorland restoration.

Conserving and restoring the moorlands is important because of a number of reasons: some of the rarest habitats in the world, moorlands are home to extremely rare animals and plants. They are also important leisure and recreation places. Finally, moorlands in good condition act as a valuable carbon sink that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases, thereby slowing climate change. The Peak District Moorlands currently stores between 16 and 20 million tons of carbon; and together with the rest of the UK's peat lands are the single largest carbon reserve in the UK-storing the equivalent of 20 years of UK carbon dioxide emissions.

Air pollution, fires, grazing, climate change and recreational trampling have caused the erosion of large areas of the moorland. Damaged areas release more carbon than they absorb. Researchers from the Moors for the Future Partnership argue that peat land restoration activities in England and Wales could absorb around 400,000 tons of carbon a year. This is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from 1.1 billion car miles or 84,000 family-sized cars per year.

Using techniques such as re-establishing heather and other moorland plants, rebuilding and re-routing paths, and gully blocking, various organizations seek to reduce erosion. A walk on Kinder Scout, a high upland plateau, will take participants on a tour of this range of restoration techniques. Researchers from the Moors for the Future Partnership will explain their research projects and answer questions.

The National Trust is hosting this walk following the success of previous guided tours and the great interest in moorland restoration. "Here at the Moorland Discovery Center, we often have members of the public enquiring about restoration work on the moorland areas. However, so far people have had little opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the work and the research that is currently done. This event will allow interested people to get a feel for the scale of the work and the wide ranging research" said Moorland Discovery Learning Officer Rachel Kerr, who initiated the event.

A talk will present restoration research and initiatives to countryside professionals who will then be able to pass this information on to the general public. Other talks aimed at the general public will highlight some of the most interesting elements of the different research initiatives.


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