If you had a rainforest, and slashed and burned it, you’d be putting a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, just as surely as if your nation ran a lot of gas-guzzling cars. Natural ecosystems often act as carbon stores which sequester greenhouse gases – forests are the obvious ones but peatlands are also very important stores on a UK and an international scale.
And so it came as no surprise yesterday, to see that in its report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change highlight damage to peatlands thus:
‘5. Land and water management: Preserve and enhance the country’s natural capital, in order to sustain agriculture productivity in a changing climate, maximise carbon sequestration, and safeguard the economic and amenity benefits the natural environment provides.
c. Review the effectiveness of agri-environment schemes in controlling damaging practices on internationally-protected peatland sites.’
Remember last year’s Leeds University study which showed that intensive management of our uplands for driven grouse shooting is a source of peatland degradation and increased carbon emissions (and pollution of water courses, reduction in aquatic biodiversity and probably of increased flood risk too)? It’s no wonder that upland management will come under closer and closer scrutiny since the evidence is pretty strong, and keeps growing as far as I can see, that grouse moor management is an anti-social practice, carried out for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Driven grouse moors are places where your protected wildlife is killed and your climate damaged too. We shouldn’t tolerate this Victorian land use now we have twenty-first century information.
Remember Walshaw Moor? The RSPB has a complaint still being considered by the EU against the UK government (and Defra in particular) about the burning of blanket bogs by the British grouse industry. It would be a bit crazy, wouldn’t it, if a government delivery body (Natural England) was allowing management practices to continue which amount to mismanagement practices? It would be crazy, wouldn’t it, if a government delivery body allowed mismanagement of the uplands by grouse shooting interests which reduced the effectiveness of the government to meet its statutory obligations under the Climate Change Act?
Evidence in the Climate Change Committee’s report highlighted the poor condition of the UK’s upland blanket bogs because of intensive and widespread regular burning on upland grouse moors.
Martin Harper, from the RSPB, said: ‘The impact that burning is having on our uplands is reinforced in this report. It shows that 76,000 hectares or 27% of blanket bog have lost peat-forming vegetation due to regular burning. There is little doubt this is one of the primary reasons for the poor condition of our upland peat and wildlife is suffering because of it. Swift and decisive action from Government is needed to deliver widespread restoration of degraded upland peat habitats.’
Whether it is the deaths of Sky, Hope,Bowland Betty and the disappearances of five male Hen Harriers this year, or the Climate Change Committee work by the likes of Lord Deben and Lord Krebs, or the Hen Harrier Day protestors, the writing is on the wall for driven grouse shooting. All we need is for policy makers to join the dots and get a move on.
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