Peatland biodiversity - Breeding bird numbers in the Peak District fly in landmark survey
A new survey of breeding birds in the Peak District National Park has shown a positive trend in numbers of endangered species. The Peak District and South Pennine moors are a vital and unique habitat for moorland birds and their population numbers provide a key insight into the health of these moorlands.
The results show an increase in the numbers of key moorland species over the last 30 years; 21 out of the 29 species surveyed have increased in abundance. In contrast to national trends from the UK Government’s State of Nature 2019 report, populations of 16 bird species in the Peak District are showing positive trends. The curlew, which experienced a decline of 48% nationally between 1995 and 2017, increased 252% between 1990 and 2018 in the Peak District.
Traditional hill grazing, grouse moor management and peatland restoration are believed to have all played their part in these success stories. In 1990, vast areas of black and degraded moors were a common sight in the Peak District and South Pennines due to historic pollution. Today, much of the bare peat is returning to vegetated moorlands due to the hard work of land owners and conservation organisations. Many moors now support native plants, including sphagnum moss. These changes are crucial for increasing biodiversity. The importance of peatlands as a habitat features prominently in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. However, the Breeding Bird Survey also reveals declining species that appear to be following the national downward trend, suggesting that more work is needed to enhance these vital habitats.
The survey, which took place in 2018, and previously in 1990 and 2004, was carried out by Moors for the Future Partnership, in collaboration with Natural England and Peak District land owners and land managers. The British Trust for Ornithology analysed the survey results and drew comparisons to the previous two surveys to give an insight into breeding bird populations, and the influence of key factors. These factors include land use, land management and habitat conditions and types. The survey was funded by Natural England, the Moorland Association, National Trust, RSPB, Severn Trent, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water.
The full report and analysis are available online here.