Friday, 31 May 2013

Natural England - Uplands Evidence Review

The five reports from the NE Uplands Evidence Review have been published and the next phase to translate the evidence into advice has already started.  This second phase is arguably the most interesting and the aim is for this to be completed by the end of the year.  

I plan to work engage with other organisations to help develop the guidance that flows from these reviews.  It is an ideal opportunity for the industry to help Natural England develop guidance that will be appropriate and relevant to the management of the English moorlands and uplands.

The next tranche of Evidence Reviews are being planned.  I am delighted that heather beetle is likely to be one of the topics. Naturally, I would like to think that the Trust's interest has been instrumental in getting this topic included in the next round of reviews, but the most important fact is that the heather beetle threat will be recognised and treated with respect.

Natural England has circulated the following letter about the topic reports:

Natural England has been undertaking a review of Uplands Evidence and we are now ready to publish our findings. The review programme has gone through a detailed assurance process and been reviewed by Natural England’s Science Advisory Committee. This is the first of Natural England’s evidence reviews and it addresses 5 topics which were identified with stakeholder input. It reflects on areas of advice that are subject to challenge and looks at what could make a difference on the ground. The review programme forms an integral part of the Upland Delivery Review programme and follows the principles embedded in our Uplands Strategic Standard published in September 2012.

The publication includes the methodology and the assurance process as well as the five topic reviews.
The five topics were:
  • The impact of tracks on the integrity and hydrological function of blanket bog
  • Restoration of degraded blanket bog
  • The effects of managed burning on upland peatland biodiversity, carbon and water
  • Upland hay meadows: what management regimes maintain the diversity of meadow flora and populations of breeding birds
  • Moorland grazing & stocking rates
The review programme provides us with the ability to refer to the evidence underpinning the management advice we provide to our customers, some of the areas discussed were:
  • How tracks affect the structure of blanket peat and its hydrological system.
  • Is a full recovery to a functioning blanket bog possible?
  • What happens after the burning of blanket bog and wet heath, how are the habitat species affected?
  • What type and quantity of fertiliser can be applied to upland hay meadows without a negative impact on species diversity?
  • The moorland grazing & stocking rate topic has been documented it is notable however that very little (approximately 20%) of the evidence can be considered as ‘strong’ - does one size fits all?
It must be emphasised that these are just some of the discussion subjects and that the full reviews are much more detailed.

Natural England will now spend the next two months evaluating the need for amendment to the guidance we provide to our advisers. We will be consulting with you in the summer on any proposals for changes, but if you have any suggestions in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us NE Uplands Evidence Review mailbox. Any changes agreed will be incorporated in revised guidance in the autumn, with a view to completion by the end of the year.

In future all guidance used by our staff will be made available on our internet.

Yours sincerely

Tim Hill, Chief Scientist 
Ian Fugler, Director Land Management, North & Uplands