5 September 2012
An unusual airlift operation gets underway this month as work starts to transport around 300,000 moorland plants onto the hills of northern England to help return the Peak District and South Pennines Moors to good health.
Between now and next spring, the thousands of native moorland plants are being airlifted by helicopter to six moorland sites. The work is being carried out by the Moors for the Future Partnership - the largest moorland conservation partnership in Europe - which is led by the Peak District National Park Authority, and funded by Natural England, Defra, the National Trust, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and the Environment Agency.
This latest phase of moorland restoration work starts with cuttings taken from several species of native moorland plants, including common cotton and hares tail cotton grasses, bilberry, crowberry, cloudberry and cross leaved heath. The cuttings are then grown on under nursery conditions, resulting in thousands of plug plants. The plants are then ready to be airlifted in large industrial bags back up to the moorlands by helicopter, where they are then individually planted by hand to help repair areas of damaged and eroding bare peat.
Ginny Hinton, Peak District Team Leader at Natural England welcomes the size and importance of this work: ‘‘This is habitat restoration on a big scale in one of the most wild and wonderful places in the UK. Bringing back these native plants will help improve the condition of the moors and the benefits that they provide in supporting water quality, carbon storage, and wildlife. These moorlands are special places and the planting will help sustain them so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from them.”
Natural England is supporting the Moors for the Future restoration projects in the Peak District between 2011-2013, through agri-environment agreements, including the Environmental Stewardship Scheme and ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) scheme.
The aim of the restoration project is to regenerate the peat-producing blanket-bog vegetation. Work will be starting with the Dark Peak moorlands – Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Saddleworth – followed by Rishworth Common, Heptonstall and Turley Holes.
Chris Dean, Programme Manager for Moors for the Future Partnership added: ‘This is yet another major restoration phase of work in our fight to restore this amazing habitat for people and wildlife. Our success is due to the continued commitment and expertise of all partners and staff involved.”
Healthy peat moors have an important role in the natural environment as they can:
Moors for the Future is led by the Peak District National Park Authority in partnership with Natural England, Defra, the National Trust, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and the Environment Agency. The largest single funder - the European Union Life+ Programme - will be contributing £5.5 million over five years as part of the Moors for the Future Partnership’s ‘MoorLIFE’ Project.