Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Plants are key to peatland carbon sinks

The report in Eco-Business summarises the study carried out by researchers at Lancaster University that has been published in the journal Ecology Letters.  The study highlights the influence of vegetation on the amount of CO2 that is absorbed from the atmosphere.

Interestingly, if climate change increases the temperature, heather is thing to have not grass, as heather absorbs more CO2.

Friday, 20 September 2013

High Peak Moors - 50-year restoration plan

The National Trust has announced a 50-year programme of restoration for the High Peak moors.  See the BBC News report for more detail.

It is great to see the problems facing our peatland being grasped in this way.  As Patrick Begg comments in the BBC's report, it is no good scratching at the surface of this problem.  The ecology of our uplands, and peatland in particular, is slow to respond to management change.  If we want to achieve a given objective we need to agree what we want and then maintain a consistent approach over a period of many years and decades to achieve it.  A succession of 3-year initiatives will not achieve this.

The ability of estate managers to deliver continuity of management over periods that are measured in generations, or even in perpetuity in the case of the National Trust, is an essential component of planning for the future of the uplands.  This explains my wish to see better engagement of the land management community within the peatland debate.  See yesterday's output.

The leadership being shown by this project will help.  Well done the National Trust!

Thursday, 19 September 2013


Peat harvesting in Ireland
I spent much of last week in York at the conference "Investing in Peatlands: Partnership for a New Peatland Era" that was very well run by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme.  Congratulations to Clifton Bain, who was very ably assisted by Rea Cris.

One of the highlights was the launch of the Peatland Carbon Code by Richard Benyon, MP, the Defra Minister, who demonstrated that there is very clear support within Defra for the development of peatland management and restoration.  In his presentation, he even slipped in a reference to the work of The Heather Trust -  what a nice man!

The amount of momentum that is developing behind peatland management and restoration is impressive, and it is clear that our knowledge is increasing in leaps and bounds as a result of all the research that is taking place.  The overarching message is that looking after peatland better is essential.  In "international speak" we need to refer to peatland restoration, but in my mind a lot could be achieved by raising awareness of the value of our peatland asset and providing guidance about how to manage it appropriately.  If ways can be found to provide an additional income stream to land owners and managers to pay for the management work, something positive would happen. This is where I hope that the Peatland Carbon Code will come in.

In the meantime, my one concern from the conference, last week was the lack of engagement by landowners and managers.  An enormous amount of effort is going into researching peatland issues,  but  management improvements and restoration work are largely restricted to conservation bodies.  I believe that we need to be making greater effort to link to all landowners and managers of peatland. if these people can be motivated will start to make a difference.  At present, I feel that we are just nibbling round the edges of the problem.

The Heather Trust stands ready to help, but to do more than fire out blog posts, we need some funding.  In the meantime, one can only read with incredulity the reports coming out of the Republic of Ireland about the amount of peat that has been harvested by Bord na Mona to feed into their power stations.  On this side of the Irish Sea we are making every effort to salvage every last bit of peat, while across the water they are harvesting it by the shed load to convert into carbon dioxide.

The Irish approach to peatland management?

Bracken Control season moving towards a close

Photo: Wharfedale Observer
Under the terms of the Emergency Authorisation for the use of Asulam for bracken control, we passed the first expiry date on 16 September.  As a result of this, it is now no longer legal to sell, distribute or transfer asulam, but application can continue.  However, as bracken dies back, the effectiveness of application will reduce and application is not recommended if a significant portion of the leaves have started to turn yellow.  At this stage, the pathways to transfer the chemical to the rhizomes start to collapse.  The translocation of asulam into the rhizomes is the aim  of the exercise.

Users now have until the end of October to apply their stocks of asulam to bracken or if containers are unopened, they can be returned to suppliers.

It was good to see that Ilkley Moor is taking full advantage of the availability of asulam as shown in the article in The Wharfedale Observer.  It is a very positive sign that we have been able to secure the Emergency Authorisation for 2014 already, and I hope that this will allow plans to continue existing bracken control programmes to be drawn up early and also provide enough confidence for new programmes to be started.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Glastonbury founder backs FG's sky lantern campaign

See the article in the Farmer's Guardian.

I hope that this high profile support for a ban on sky lanterns means that we are making progress towards solving this problem and reducing the threat to stock and the chances of starting wildfires.

Wildfire 2013 ~ 22-23 October 2013

Wildfire 2013 is six weeks away

The conference will include international speakers, best practice studies, the latest research, great networking opportunities, themed site visits and exhibits. Plus the best of Welsh hospitality at the Vale Resort. I will even be saying a few words at the end!

The Programme
More details of the programme have now been released including additional speakers.  Wildfire 2013 will open with a session comparing risk management and mitigation strategies in New Zealand and Ireland, before an update from the Knowledge for Wildfire Project which will include a series of poster presentations from researchers.  The afternoon looks in more detail at the South Wales Valleys, including a field trip (see below) and a presentation from SWFRS on their holistic approach to wildfires.

The second day opens with a range of optional workshops, with a wide range of topics on environmental, operational and strategic issues. The final session looks at wildfire simulation and risk prediction and promises to be a stimulating way to wrap up Wildfire 2013.

Field Trip
The South Wales Valleys are well known for the frequency of wildfires and, during the field trip, we will be looking in detail at why this is, how it is managed and what techniques SWFRS use to minimise severity, including a demonstration of offensive burning.  Natural Resources Wales will host a visit to a forest which suffers frequent burns and provides a text book case study of wildfire risk at the rural/urban interface.

To Book
Go to the website where you will find full details of how to book online and the costs.  You can pay quickly and easily via debit or credit card but if you require an invoice for payment please call 01765 609355 or e-mail the Wildfire Team.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Wildfire 2013 - 22-23 October

Wildfire 2013 represents an opportunity for all those involved in the prevention of, and response to, wildfires to come together to share best practice, hear from researchers working on the subject and meet providers of wildfire related equipment and services.

There is still space for delegates, trade stands and sponsors. More details and booking information can be found here.

This year’s event will be held at The Vale Resort in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

I will be there and I hope to see you!