15th September 2016
Moorland owners are delighted to be part of a success story revealed yesterday in The State of Nature 2016 report, highlighting how targeted conservation can make a real difference to struggling bird species.
While the report says 56 percent of species studied had declined over recent decades – and more than one in 10 of those assessed were under threat of disappearing all together – there were positive gains to celebrate.
Putting the spotlight on targeted conservation, the study pointed to ‘inspiring success stories’ and said ‘with sufficient determination, resources and public support, we can turn the fortunes of our wildlife around’.
Director of The Moorland Association, Amanda Anderson, welcomed the comments, adding moors managed for grouse shooting had seen significant advances in some of the country’s most endangered bird populations.
Although lapwing, curlew, golden plover, ring ouzel, merlin and black grouse and are in serious decline elsewhere, they can still be found in good numbers on our moors.
Scientific research has shown where predator control is in place on grouse moors, birds such as the now ‘red listed’ curlew, and lapwing, are 3.5 times more likely to fledge their chicks. When driven grouse shooting was lost in Wales, populations of many of these species dropped by 60 to 90 percent.
Preservation schemes away from keepered grouse moors have failed the curlew and since December it has been given the highest conservation priority. These beautiful birds have bucked serious national declines where there are gamekeepers and predator control.
The Moorland Association (MA) has pledged its continued commitment to the government’s Hen Harrier Action Plan, after RSPB’s recent pull-out, and the organisation is determined to see more of Britain’s most talked about bird of prey on grouse moors.
Amanda explained another significant advantage of moorland management for red grouse was the resistance to commercial forestry, which in turn harbour predators increasing predation pressure for vulnerable wading birds.
However, one of the most remarkable advances to impact on the country’s state of nature is the extensive current work on peatland. Restoration equalling the size of two cities – a massive 18,000 hectares – has already been implemented, all on land managed by MA members.
Amanda said: “In the wake of some of the worst flooding in recent memory, peatland restoration will help slow the flow of water. We are working with some of the country’s leading conservation organisations on these critical areas.
“The ‘rewetting’ process includes revegetating bare peat and reintroducing the king of bog plants, Sphagnum moss. It improves the diversity of habitat and food supplies for our precious moorland wildlife. New homes for millions of insects are provided, it also improves water quality, traps carbon and build resilience to climate change.
“One important tool can be ‘restoration burning’, removing the canopy of over-dominant heather to inoculate with Sphagnum. The need to manage the vegetation through regular burning or mowing will decrease as heather growth slows as the land gets wetter.”
She added partnership working was invaluable and applauded 53 wildlife organisations coming together for State of Nature 2016 and said:
“The call for individuals, organisations and government to work together to stop the losses and bring nature back from the brink is welcomed. Indeed, it is what our members are constantly striving for – and achieving.”