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You are here: Home / What we do / Science / Key messages from the 'ECN at 20' Special Issue of Ecological Indicators, 2016 / Milligan, G., Rose, RJ. and Marrs, RH. Winners and losers in a long-term study of vegetation change at Moor House NNR: Effects of sheep-grazing and its removal on British upland vegetation

Milligan, G., Rose, RJ. and Marrs, RH. Winners and losers in a long-term study of vegetation change at Moor House NNR: Effects of sheep-grazing and its removal on British upland vegetation

Key points

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The ECN site at Moor House-Upper Teesdale in the North Pennines is a nationally important component of effective [upland] management strategies ... In addition to delivering to the national ECN network, ECN operatives at Moor House also help to underpin an even longer-term study ... of the impacts of sheep grazing on moorland vegetation
Pin frame veg surveying, Moor House exclosures
  1.  The UK uplands represent an important source of drinking water, mediate water flows to lower lying areas, serve as a major carbon store, provide large areas of grazing for agriculture, are much valued areas for recreation and tourism, and provide habitats for a range of relatively rare species of animals and plants. There is a growing need to understand the impacts, and potential synergies represented by these often competing demands on the uplands. 
  2. The ECN site at Moor House-Upper Teesdale in the North Pennines is a nationally important component of the evidence base used to inform organisations such as Natural England of the most appropriate and effective management strategies. In addition to delivering to the national ECN network, ECN operatives at Moor House also help to underpin an even longer-term study (initiated in 1954) of the impacts of sheep grazing on moorland vegetation via the use of sheep exclosure plots.
  3. Analysis of vegetation data from this study (currently covering the period x-y) shows that species diversity declined significantly in the sheep-grazed plots compared with those protected from grazing.
  4. This emphasises the vulnerability of this element of upland biodiversity to traditional farming practices and raises issues regarding what may be the most appropriate targets for habitat management.

Reference: Milligan, G., Rose, RJ. and Marrs, RH. (2016). Winners and losers in a long-term study of vegetation change at Moor House NNR: Effects of sheep-grazing and its removal on British upland vegetation. Ecological Indicators68, 89-101. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.10.053.

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