Friday, 23 December 2011

50,000 year old peat moss

Here is some information from research in Hawaii that could cause a stunned silence if dropped into conversation during a Christmas social gathering.

If you do not know anything about sphagnum mosses, you will not be alone, but look out for the 'simple' guide that will be published by the Field Studies Council early next year, which has been part sponsored by The Heather Trust.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Scotland: High Nature Value farming and crofting

Scottish Environment Link has published a file note that provides a  definition of High Nature Value Farming and argues that it deserves more consideration.  A thought from the file note to ponder: rather than see a large part of Scotland dismissed as being a 'Less Favoured Area' (LFA) would it be better to view these areas as being potentially high value in terms of the environmental goods produced.  Is your cup half empty or half full?  Perhaps the introduction of 'Areas facing Natural Constraint' (ANC) as a successor to LFA will help introduce a change of perception.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Scotland: The Woodland Expansion Advisory Group

The Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG) has been established in response to The Scottish Government's wish to increase the amount of woodland cover in Scotland from 17% to 25%.  The WEAG has established a consultation process which closes on 6 January 2012 and a copy of a letter that was sent by the Group to stakeholders can be downloaded from the FCS website.

The WEAG has announced a series of seven stakeholder events across Scotland between 21 February and 1 March 2012, and details can be found on the WEAG page of the website.

I aim to add some further thoughts to the blog as I develop the Trust's response to the consultation, but in the meantime the WEAG has announced a series of seven stakeholder events across Scotland between 21 February and 1 March 2012, and details can be found on the WEAG page of the website.

More on the 2011 Grouse Season

A second article about the success of the 2011 grouse season in today's edition of The Scotsman is by Lord Hopetoun, the chairman of the Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group.  He comments on the environmental benefits arising from the investment in moorland management, and also very importantly on the benefits to the communities in the areas where this investment takes place.

The Grouse Season in Scotland

The Scotsman carries a summary of the 2011 Scottish grouse season.  As stated in the article, 2011 has been a season to savour and this is good news all round.

From a Heather Trust perspective, good grouse bags can only be achieved from well-managed moorland and the income generated from the grouse justifies the continuation of this management.  It may also encourage those who are not managing their moors to their potential to invest in them for the benefit of grouse and all moorland and upland plants and species.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Statistical Digest of the English Uplands 2011

This document was published today and contains every statistics you might want for the English uplands, and more besides.

I was asked to comment on the scope of the work in the early stages and expressed some disappointment that there is no information about: land included in sporting enterprises, the split between land entered into HLS & UELS schemes and land that forms drinking water catchments.

Valuing Nature Network

The Valuing Nature Network is a NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) interdisciplinary network for valuing biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use.  The network is open to new members and registration can be carried out from the website.

Of particular relevance to our work is the 'Assessing and valuing peatland ecosystem services for sustainable management' project which is being led by Mark Reed from The University of Aberdeen, amongst others.  I am attending a workshop set up by this project on 19 January 2012.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Heather Trust Annual Report Articles

For the first time the best bits of the Trust's annual report are available online.

Some of the Trust's annual report, which is published in August each year, is inevitably devoted to telling the world how wonderful we are.  However, every year we are blessed with some guest articles that provide width and added interest for the recipients of the report and it is these articles that, with the permission of the authors, are now available on the Trust's website.

All the articles are of a high standard but if you only have time to digest three of them, let me give you my recommendations: 'What Makes heather so Special?' by Prof Charles Gimingham, the response to the Fair Game BBC TV programme by Douglas McAdam of Scottish Land & Estates, and Prof Steve Redpath's 'A Glimmer of Hope for Hen harriers'.

The report is circulated to members and a few additional people who we think will benefit from learning about what we do. But as a trial we are making the guest articles available to everyone.  If you enjoy reading these articles, please let us know.  Alternatively, you could sign up to become a member and receive your own printed copy of future reports in August.  Membership starts from (only) £40 p.a. - follow the link for more details.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bracken Control - The Yorkshire Post

Ian Rotherham has picked up the story about asulam in today's edition of The Yorkshire Post.  He provides a useful summary of the current position and what we are doing about it.  Asulam is banned, but long live Asulam!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Peatland Management - letter to The Scotsman

The Scotsman published a letter on Friday (3 December) suggesting that management of the uplands for deer or by burning heather was detrimental to the carbon capture & storage potential of the uplands.  Adam Smith, Director Scotland for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and I disagree and have sent the following letter to the Editor:

Contrary to the letters on Friday, a balanced view suggests our peatland performance is not presently so poor.  The recently published findings from the IUCN Commission of Inquiry rightly identifies that enhancing carbon capture on deep peat, such as blanket bogs, is at least theoretically achievable. We are concerned that making this the key objective for all Scottish peatland systems is short-sighted. Research evidence supports the view that management carried out by landowners and managers to enhance habitats for grazing by, for example sheep, cattle, deer, grouse and hares, actually increases the ability of our hills to capture carbon and store it in the peat. And the removal of litter and dense vegetation by managed fire reduces the likelihood of peat-damaging fires, such as those seen this spring in many areas where rotational muirburn is not practiced.
Managed fire in Scotland’s hills is an internationally recognised means of delivering biodiversity, cultural and economic outcomes from our upland peatlands. Our achievable vision is integrating peatland restoration, which maximises carbon capture and water quality, with the many services our farmers and sportsmen deliver from other parts of our hills for the benefit of all people in Scotland. 
Adam Smith, Director Scotland, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, 
Simon Thorp, Director, Heather Trust

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Single Environment Organisation for Wales

The Welsh Assembly has announced that the proposed merger of the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), the Forestry Commission Wales and the Environment Agency Wales will go ahead.  The single organisation will open for business on 1 April 2013.  More info.

Is this decision a sign of the future for other parts of the UK?  Will the inevitable turbulence be justified by the introduction of better management of the environment and countryside, and good relations with land managers, or will it result in happy bean counters, but leave a single organisation that is under resourced?

Mar Lodge - Independent Review

See the post of the Moorland Forum Blog about the independent review of moorland, woodland and deer management that has just been published.

The comments at the bottom of the 'read the final report' page are also worth a look, e.g. "the arrogance of those with education but no knowledge or experience is very frustrating".

The Rhododendron’s Road to Redemption

The link between Rhododendron and Phytophthora Ramorum has been established and this has made this invasive plant even less welcome.

See The Telegraph's article about how one estate has found a commercial use for rhododendron cuttings as part of a control programme.

Formation of Irish Bogs

This link takes you to an article that provides a view on how man's influence encourages the formation of blanket bog in Ireland, but how raised bogs formed without man's influence.

Raised bogs have been the main target for fuel.  800,000 tons per year of peat (called turf when cut) were extracted for fuel during the period 1814 - 1946 and this led to the destruction of half of Ireland's raised bogs.  Bord na Mona was set up to manage the extraction of peat  and there were 100,000 ha of raised bogs remaining in 1969 of which Bord na Mona owned 45,000ha.

The extraction of peat at this rate seems strange in the current peat-friendly times.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

A Monthly Perspective

I have launched a new initiative today.  Patrick Laurie writes a monthly column for The Shooting Gazette but as he lives near Dumfries, I have given him the task of writing a monthly article, A Monthly Perspective, which will be his views of what we have been up to in the previous month.  It will be interesting to see what he makes of it!

You can get to the first submission through the website.