9th January 2018
For years land managers have faced the challenge of trying to protect one of the UK’s most prized environmental landscapes as they work.
Now, new research has provided a big boost to safeguarding fragile upland blanket bogs along access routes.
A study has been published that demonstrates that it is possible to use some vehicles on blanket bog habitats while minimising damage.
Blanket bog is internationally important for plants and animals and has an impact on drinking water quality.
Blanket bogs are an integral part of uplands in the UK and are managed for sheep grazing, grouse shooting, and support other leisure activities such as fell running, walking, bird watching and orienteering.
Vehicle access is primarily required for shepherding and grouse moor management activities including predator control, vegetation management and transporting shooting visitors to areas of moorland on shoot days. They can also be used to access the moors for restoration work.
A research project to investigate new track technology, including the use of wooden and mesh surfaces rather than stone, to help prevent damage to these fragile landscapes has been undertaken by the University of Leeds on the Moor House – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve in the North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty.
Researchers used ‘floating’ tracks and plastic mesh on top of the peatland which vehicles could drive over and found it had little effect on the peat.
The Moorland Association, Natural England and North Pennines AONB Partnership sponsored the project.
The study’s results were very encouraging. Both the wooden structure for heavy vehicle use and the plastic mesh for lighter vehicles had little effect on the physical and hydrological properties of the peatland within the timescale of the trial even with increased driving frequency and loading of vehicles.
Moorland Association Director, Amanda Anderson, said, “As we all strive to restore blanket bogs in the uplands the conditions get wetter and the surface more fragile. This research tells us that the ‘floating’ technology we have tested protects what is going on below the surface and allows the vegetation to grow back through the structures removing any visual impact relatively quickly. It’s a win win for the environment and those making a living from the land.”
Natural England’s Chief Scientist, Dr Tim Hill, said: “The partnership’s research has collectively filled a notable gap in our knowledge base. It strengthens our evidence-based approach to decision-making, and allows moorland managers to plan and carry out the day to day management of their land in a way that we can support.”
The Blanket Bog Track Trial report can be found at: http://www.moorlandassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BlanketBogTrackTrial-Moor-House-NNR-.pdf