Environmental change in moorland landscapes

J. Holden*, L. Shotbolt, A. Bonn, T. P. Burt, P. J. Chapman, A. J. Dougill, E. D.G. Fraser, K. Hubacek, B. Irvine, M. J. Kirkby, M. S. Reed, C. Prell, S. Stagl, L. C. Stringer, A. Turner, F. Worrall

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Moorlands are unique environments found in uplands of the temperate zone including in the UK, New Zealand and Ireland, and in some high altitude tropical zones such as the Andean páramos. Many have been managed through grazing, burning or drainage practices. However, there are a number of other environmental and social factors that are likely to drive changes in management practice over the next few decades. Some moorlands have been severely degraded and in some countries conservation and restoration schemes are being attempted, particularly to revegetate bare soils. Native or non-native woodland planting may increase in some moorland environments while atmospheric deposition of many pollutants may also vary. Moorland environments are very sensitive to changes in management, climate or pollution. This paper reviews how environmental management change, such as changes in grazing or burning practices, may impact upon moorland processes based on existing scientific understanding. It also reviews the impacts of changes in climate and atmospheric deposition chemistry. The paper focuses on the UK moorlands as a case study of moorland landscapes that are in different states of degradation. Future research that is required to improve our understanding of moorland processes is outlined. The paper shows that there is a need for more holistic and spatial approaches to understanding moorland processes and management. There is also a need to develop approaches that combine understanding of interlinked social and natural processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-100
Number of pages26
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This review was carried out as part of project: RES-224–25–0088, funded through the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) Programme, co-sponsored by UK agencies ESRC, NERC, BBSRC, DEFRA and SEERAD. The work was carried out while Joseph Holden was a holder of a NERC Research Fellowship (NER/I/S/2001/00712). We are thankful for the support of Moors for the Future Partnership in organising workshops and facilitating stakeholder meetings. We are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments which improved the quality of this paper.


  • afforestation
  • bogs
  • burning
  • grazing
  • heath
  • heather
  • hydrology
  • moorland ecology
  • peatlands
  • uplands
  • water quality

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