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Changing the climate of the Peak

Posted 8 March 2012
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Changing the climate of the Peak
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Anyone with a good knowledge of the Peak District will be aware of how the national park's landscape has changed over the millennia as a result of the actions of man. Even the bareness of the moortops themselves is partly down to deforestation thousands of years ago, with the grazing of sheep today ensuring new shoots have no chance of thriving.

This has created acidic areas of peat on the plateaux of the High Peak, in which a variety of creatures from lizards to grouse and mountain hares thrive.

How the landscape is changing now is the subject of an ongoing study by hundreds of local schoolchildren as part of the Moorland Indicators of Climate Change Initiative, which has been running for five years. They will be carrying out research between March 9th and 19th.

Co-ordinator Chris Robinson, of the Peak District National Park Authority's learning and discovery team, said: "Healthy peat moorlands could retain more carbon than all the forests in the UK and France combined. But centuries of human activities have damaged the peat through pollution, wildfires and drainage which led to severe loss of vegetation and erosion."

He explained that the study will establish how climate change is taking place and the extent to which vegetation is being damaged. A more positive aim is to study how effective re-vegetation can be through introducing plants such as cotton-grass and cloudberry.
Peak moorland vegetation has been eroded in many ways and a steady procession of walking boots across paths such the Pennine Way is one obvious area of impact, but far from the most damaging.

A more insidious influence has been the industrial pollution of surrounding cities like Manchester and Sheffield, as well as the general increase in acid rain. This has contributed to the loss of vegetation, along with grazing and moorland fires, the latter being started accidentally on occasions and deliberately on others. When tinder dry, the moors are sometimes closed.

So while the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Mass Trespass will be marked next month, it is the wider impact and interaction between man and moorland that will concern some the most.