Monday, 24 September 2012

Peak District - 150 million beads of sphagnum moss

The Yorkshire Post has reported on the airlift of 150 million beads of sphagnum moss onto Black Hill in the Peak District to re-establish this moss, which forms peat.

For more detail about beads of sphagnum moss see the Beadamoss website.

Bracken Control - BBC Radio Wales

I was interviewed for the Country Focus programme that was broadcast on Radio Wales at 07:00 on 23 September.  For those not glued to their radio at 07:00 on a Sunday morning, or not living within Radio Wales coverage, the programme is available on iPlayer, until 30 September.

We got 12 mins of coverage and my words followed those of Mike Davies, from MD Air Services, recorded while working with a helicopter spraying bracken.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Defra: Upland Stakeholders Forum

I attended the third meeting of this Forum in London on 10 September.  The Forum met for the first time in July but a series of quick-fire meetings are being held to gather some momentum and reach a decision on its future role.  There will be two more meetings before the end of the year.

The Forum has been reviewing strategic upland issues and receiving updates from Natural England on the work they are engaged with (following the Walshaw Moor inquiry) that includes the Review of Upland Evidence and a revision of the consenting regime for work on Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  I have volunteered to provide some input to the review of the consenting regime and there is hope that it might be possible to introduce arrangements to allow some minor works to be granted deemed consent, providing there are adequate safeguards.

Other topics discussed include the review of the Less Favoured Areas regime, to become Areas of Natural Constraint, and I sneaked in a briefing about heather beetle.

The Moorland Burning Working Group will be providing an input to this Forum, and Arik Dondi from Defra, who is part of this Forum, has taken over as Chairman of the Burning Group.

A Hen harrier sub-group has been formed and this will be considering Hen harrier issues in conjunction with the Environment Council led initiative, which faces an uncertain future following the withdrawal of the RSPB.

It is good for the Trust to providing some input into discussions at this level in England and I am able to bring my experience of what is taking place elsewhere in the UK to the discussions.

In view of his responsibility for English upland policy, Adam Smith, GWCT Director for Scotland, joined the Forum at this meeting, and he will also be able to provide some cross-border input.

Natural England - Review of Upland Evidence

In view of my involvement with the tracks topic that forms part of this review, I thought it worthwhile providing a summary of the what is involved.  This is a rather wordier post than normal ones, but I hope it is informative.  The Natural England website has even more detail!

The key point is that I am supporting phase one only, at this stage.  This will be reviewing evidence not changing guidance or policy.  Phase 2 might be more interesting to those involved directly in management issues.

Reasons for the review:
·      An increase in scrutiny of the uplands - want to ensure stakeholder confidence
·      To make sound evidence-based decisions
·      Operate robust and transparent processes
·      Ensure compliance with environmental standards

Phase 1
This phase reviews current evidence and evidence standards including:
·      quality assurance;
·      relevance of evidence and appropriateness of analysis;
·      conclusions drawn;
·      clarity of communications and consistency of advice to customers and stakeholders.
 It will:
·      Identify and consider all relevant evidence
·      Identify gaps
·      Consider the effect of defined activities
·      Draw conclusions based on available evidence (including recommendations for future research)
It will not:
·      consider other relevant information such as socio-economic factors
·      recommend changes in management practices or operational guidance

Topics to be covered include:
·      Effects of tracks/vehicles on soil structure and hydrology, and their effects on biodiversity.
·      Effects of managed burning on peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services
·      Appropriate management regimes for sustaining biodiversity and upland hay meadows.
·      Determination of environmentally sustainable stocking regimes for moorland.
·      Feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog including areas such as drainage, vegetation cover (peat forming species) and climate change.

Phase 2 
This phase has not yet been defined but will look at possible changes in advice provision for each of the topics,

Review Process
Evidence Review groups
·      will evaluate outputs from the evidence review, draw evidence conclusions, and summarise these.
·      Each group includes two expert  members on the topic being covered.
·      Timing: 14 September – 5 October
Assurance Review group 
·      will comprise a chair and two independent specialists who will check the soundness of  the topic reviews and their conclusions.
·      The Group will report  to the Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC).
·      Timing: 5 – 26 October
Stakeholder Workshops
Natural England plans to hold a series of workshops to discuss initial findings for each topic in November 2012 and to publish a report in December.

"Research in the Flow Country" conference: 23-25 October

The Environmental Research Institute is hosting a peatlands conference in Thurso 23-25 October - "Research in the Flow Country: Linking Science to Society".  More details are available on the website

I am disappointed that I cannot attend (due to speaking about bracken control at another conference) but it does offer an opportunity to visit the Flow Country and learn about developments in peatland research.

IUCN World Conservation Congress

IUCN World Conservation Congress has been taking place on the island of Jeju, South Korea.  A huge programme has covered five themes linking nature to climate, food, development, people and governance, and to valuing life.  

Clifton Bain, from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, has been at the conference and no doubt discussions from this conference will feed into our work on peatlands.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Plant airlift to restore Peak District moorlands

Photo: Moors for the Future
The Natural England website has details of the operation to airlift   300,000 moorland plants onto the Peak District and South Pennines Moors.

This is not an option for most people, but it is great to see what can be done where there is a budget and enthusiasm.   The justification for this work is that arguably, these moorland areas have a lot of catching up to do to reach the state of other areas, which did not suffer the same levels of industrial pollution.