MoorLIFE conservation

A major part of the MoorLIFE project was the conservation and stabilisation of the blanket bogs through practical works on the moors.

The restoration section on the Moors for the Future website details the works that were undertaken.

There were four main actions that took place on the target areas of the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation.

These were:

1. Stabilisation of the remaining peat and blanket bog
2. Lime, seed and fertiliser - To establish a nurse crop of grasses that will only live for a few years and will continue to stabilise the peat and allow dwarf shrubs (such as heather) to establish
3. Gully blocking - to affect the hydrology to re-wet the blanket bog. Bogs need water to work as an ecosystem, so this can be an essential part of the restoration process.
4. Diversification of the plants on restored areas - the seed we spread comprised of a few species of grasses so to help the diversification small plug plants of cotton grass and other moorland plants were introduced. Towards the end of the project sphagnum was spread using new application techniques.

 

Airlifting heather brash from Salters Brook to Bleaklow in the Peak District

The huge scale of the works carried out was illustrated by the logistical obstacles that had to be overcome to ensure the thousands of tonnes of materials could be transported to the reach the four sites.

Helicopters were the only way much of the material could be transported to site.

During the five-year project this involved a total of 8858 flights, or 1,181 flying hours, the equivalent to 196 days of flying.

In total 8150 tonnes of materials such as brash, lime and fertiliser, seeds, plug plants and stone were flown onto the moors.

All works had to be carried out between Mid-October and March to avoid the bird breeding season.

However the weather conditions often posed a challenge. Fog, mist, rain, snow and high winds limited flying time to an average of less than two hours a day.

Extreme weather conditions also played a part with the winter of 2012-13 seeing deep snow on the ground from November to mid-April.

Once materials were on site a co-ordinated effort was needed to get it all installed, spread and planted. The brash took 724 man days to spread, the plugs plants needed 200 man days to plant and the sphagnum took 125 man days sow.

Agreements had be in place for each location before any work could take place. For one site this involved 23 separate people who each had to agree to the suitability of the proposed date for the works.

Challenges faced also included those that could not have been foreseen. These included: a GPS system being stolen from a helicopter, grounding operations; cattle destroying plants at one lift site and the introduction of a no-fly zone for most of Yorkshire to accommodate the eight helicopters covering the Tour de France.

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