The overarching aim of this study was to acquire experimental data to inform the recommendation of possible management techniques, for example through Environmental Stewardship schemes, to address the dominance of heather (Calluna vulgaris) and facilitate the support of ‘active’ blanket bog vegetation (with peat-forming species, particularly Sphagnum spp.). This requires screening for the most suitable management techniques and then including these as part of a long-term manipulative experiment to provide scientifically sound data to inform policy advice and subsequently management decisions.
The project identified three blanket bog sites and setup a paired control and treatment catchment at each site. So far, an annual cycle of pre-treatment data was obtained on climate and measuring chamber-based carbon dynamics (photosynthesis and respiration) and greenhouse gas emissions, plot and stream hydrology and vegetation composition at 24 monitoring plots at each site. Whereas four plots are controls (i.e. burning), the remaining 20 are allocated to 5 different treatments. These were implemented in spring 2013 and mainly consist of different mowing regimes and a “do nothing” (i.e. uncut) scenario. This data will allow a direct comparison of different management impacts on key ecosystem services within and across sites in a rigorous experimental design.
At a recent project workshop it became clear that this research area is addressing a ‘burning issue’ namely that of obtaining robust data on how we can ensure better management towards key ecosystem services provision to most of the UK’s inhabitants and visitors alike, particularly drinking water and recreation. Currently, there is an intense debate related to improved management of the uplands and how to protect and enhance carbon storage in the uplands. Blanket bogs cover a substantial amount of this and evidence based best practice management requires to better understand pivotal and underpinning processes related to carbon, water and vegetation dynamics, which are tightly coupled in complex interactions.