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23rd January 2023

Monday, 23 January, 2023: The Moorland Association today welcomed a landmark report on the impact of different land management practices on peatland.

Researchers at York University conducting a 20-year study into the effects on peatland of burning, mowing and leaving land unmanaged have published their report at the half-way stage of the project.

The report findings include:-

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ method of protecting carbon-rich peatlands.
  • Land management tools such as burning and mowing produce benefits and should be available.
  • Burning and mowing of heather supported increased vegetation diversity.
  • A greater number of some ground-nesting birds on burnt and mown plots.
  • Despite short-term carbon emissions from burning, carbon capture is achieved in the medium and long-term.
  • Carbon capture on burnt plots absorbed twice the amount of carbon compared with mown areas.
  • Burning was good for nutrient content for grazing animals.
  • Mowing benefited peat wetness to a small extent but the additional benefit only lasted a few years after mowing.
  • There are initial benefits in terms of carbon capture to allowing heather to grow unmanaged but this dries out peat and increases the  risk of wildfire, potentially triggering ‘catastrophic’ carbon losses and damage to peat.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “This valuable report shows there is no simple solution to the management of peatland. This report provides compelling evidence for decision-makers to embrace all land management tools to find the sweet-spot of positive outcomes from our varied peatlands. There is no ‘one size fits all.’

“The debate around protecting and preserving peatland has long been too polarised and this report demonstrates that it is not in the best interests of conservation to demonise particular techniques. The time has come to apply this new knowledge to the previous blanket bog land management guidance from government and ensure it is fit for the purpose of restoring, enhancing and maintaining actively functioning blanket bog.”

The full report can be read here :

A summary of the report is accessible here:


Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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