The biodiversity of intact, functioning moorland is not only important in its own right (has intrinsic value), it also supports natural cycling of water and carbon; provides land based products, pollinators and a natural seed bank, as well as inspiring recreational and research opportunities. All of which are costly to replace once an ecosystem had been degraded or lost.
Peatland plants (especially Bryophytes such as Sphagnum moss) are key to peat formation, maintaining, if not increasing, existing peat stores. Whilst invertebrates are known to contribute to peat accumulation by breaking down vegetation above ground, relatively little is known about underground invertebrate and microbial communities.
The geology, topography and microclimates of moorlands have resulted in relatively low species richness across wildlife assemblages. The species that do utilise moorland, on either a permanent or migratory basis, are often habitat specialists, adapted to waterlogged, nutrient poor and mostly acidic environments. Such specialist species are particularly sensitive to natural and anthropogenic changes such as climate related range shifts and habitat degradation. Declining numbers and increasingly fragmented populations have resulted in some moorland species becoming of increasing conservation concern.
Active raised bog, degraded raised bogs still capable of regeneration and blanket bogs are all priority habitats, of community importance, occurring within the Peak District (Habitats Directive: Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora). Peatland plant communities are indentified in the British National Vegetation Classification(Rodwell et al. 1991).
UK peatland biodiversity includes plant and bird assemblages of International, European and national importance which are protected under UK and European conservation legislation including:
UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) (Habitats Directive)
Special Protection Areas (SPA) (Bird Directive)
Special Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
Click table (left) for UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species (see JNCC & IUCN Biodiversity Review, Littlewood, N. et. al 2010) found in UK ombrotrophic bogs. BAP bird species recorded in the Peak District during MFF 2004 breeding bird survey (*not typical of moorlands).
By recording the number and variety of different species in a given area at different points in time we can monitor changes in their populations and distributions, giving us an indication of the impacts of natural and man-made environmental changes, such as peatland restoration and climate change, over time. For example, we have scientifically documented 6 years of successful project delivery on Black Hill (2005, 2008, July 2008) (see Right).
Large scale biodiversity surveys completed by MFF to date include:
- 2005 Vegetation survey of non SSSI moorlands, collating 1988 ESA maps & NVC surveys to produce a consistent map of moorland habitats (see SPM GeoNetwork).
- 2004 Breeding Bird Survey of the Peak District Moorlands, comparing species distribution changes between 1990 (Brown & Shepard - REF) and 2004.
Sphagnum Project ...
Report - Sphagnum in the Peak District; current status and potential for restoration
Report - Sphagnum re-introduction project: A report on research into the re-introduction of Sphagnum mosses to degraded moorland - Interim report
From left to right: Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus), Twite (Carduelis flavirostris) and Merlin (Falco columbarius) are characteristic of Peak District Moorlands. Click on images for audio clips.