Natural England holds a body of data from past surveys of moorland grazing units under Land Management Scheme agreement. This gave an opportunity to evaluate the effects medium to long term management change on moorland habitats. The original surveys were associated with changes in grazing levels as part of Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) monitoring, overgrazing cross-compliance monitoring, or an ad-hoc baseline survey on entry to an agreement. Twenty sites were selected for resurvey through a contract let under the Environmental Stewardship Monitoring and Evaluation (ESME) Programme. Each site included at least one of upland dry or wet heath, blanket bog or upland calcareous grassland habitats. The period of management change under one or more agreement ranged from 6 to 22 years.
The main aims were to:
• describe condition, and change since previous surveys, for each site and across the sample as a whole;
• expand and improve the baseline against which future change can be assessed;
• add to the evidence base on the influence of land management factors, including grazing, burning and drainage modification.
A standard method was developed based on an amalgamation of Integrated Site Assessment (ISA) and Overgrazing Cross-Compliance Surveillance methods. It is recommended that this is followed in future surveys, as variation in baseline methods meant robust statistical analysis could only be carried out a sub-set of sites.
This project produced the following outputs:
|Final report||Defra publication|
|Individual site reports: 19 case studies||Natural England Evidence Publication|
Few consistent trends were found among the sites, although most showed some long-term reduction in grazing intensity or improvement in condition. Dry heath was closest to being in good condition in six sites that had been under agri-environment scheme agreements for the longest periods (19 – 22 years). In contrast, blanket bog was in less favourable condition, even in sites with the longest periods of grazing restrictions (17 – 22 years). Individual site reports will be used by local advisers to inform management decisions, and the published overview report will add to our evidence on the effect of interventions and timescales of change.