Thursday, 18 December 2014

Scottish Natural Heritage - Review of Moorland Management

Professor Alan Werritty is chairing a SNH-led review of moorland management.  Here, in his second guest blog, Alan provides an update on progress.

We are now well into our hearing on sustainable moorland management.

Yesterday was fascinating. We heard evidence from SNH staff, which highlighted the huge breadth of issues they deal with under the umbrella of ‘moorlands’. We have some strong lines of evidence on wildlife and habitat changes derived from SNHs Site Condition Monitoring, and available on SEWeb.

We then heard from a trio of professors working on water management and geodiversity. We discussed the EMBER project, a number of issues relating to flood management, and heard about growing interest in the ‘roughness’ of upland landscapes in determining water run-off. 

We then moved into economic and amenity issues and heard from representatives of crofting and recreation interests as well as experienced economists and land-use experts. As we ranged over the many values of moorland we were challenged to tease apart views, perceptions and evidence (the term ‘co-production of evidence’ popped into conversation!). So many people, even experts, have hard views about what works well and badly across moorland Scotland, yet the evidence base underpinning this is incredibly patchy and disparate.

We worked late and tried to pull together the threads of much of what we heard, and have read.

This morning, we started with a session on biodiversity, with lively contributions from Professors Steve Redpath and Davy McCracken, both vastly experienced and steeped in the complexities of land use change, conservation and management. A lot of science came to the fore here, and we heard a strong case for more experimental work, and possibly a large experiment on land management practices and impacts. We also heard a lot about the value of a range of evidence types – not just from scientists, but from the wider range of stakeholders connected with the uplands.

We have just finished a session on moorland management practices, with experts from the Heather Trust, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Trust for Scotland, Association of Deer Management Groups, and the renewable energy sector. This was a wide ranging session, with a lot of discussion centring on grouse moor management, the land restoration measures and cooperative approaches to management. These are complex issues, and one issue emerging very clearly is the great range of management objectives, some of which operate at the local landholding level, whereas others cover vast landscapes. Indeed, several people have commented we don’t really have a clear or shared vision for moorlands. We recently saw a public consultation on a national plan for Scotland’s peatlands, and we have a good deal to learn from that.

Professor Alan Werritty FRSE
Chair of the SNH SAC Sustainable Moorland Management Review Group

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