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Project Progress

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LIFE and Beyond!
Jun 2018

On the 15th and 16th May 2018, around 100 delegates came together in Doncaster to celebrate the success of the That's LIFE - Restoring the Humberhead Peatlands project. On both days of the conference, we were treated to indoor presentations at Doncaster Racecourse by members of the LIFE+ Project team, the project partners and bog restoration experts, as well as site visits to Thorne and Hatfield Moors. There was also a conference dinner to enjoy in the rather splendid art deco surroundings of The Earl of Doncaster Hotel - Poirot would have felt right at home! Presentations on the first day of the conference introduced us to the Humberhead Peatlands and its history, unique character and species. We were also joined by colleagues from other LIFE-funded mire restoration projects in England for an update on their exciting work. The focus then turned to the physical works carried out by the That's LIFE - Restoring the Humberhead Peatlands project to manage water levels and remove scrub, as well as the monitoring of nightjars and invertebrates conducted by the project. It was inspiring to learn that the project has exceeded its targets for scrub control and rhododendron regrowth control with nightjars showing a strong preference for cleared areas and peatland invertebrate species also increasing in these areas. On the second day of the conference, we learnt about the significant wider benefits provided by the Humberhead Peatlands, for example through carbon sequestration and cultural ecosystem services. The project's restoration works have saved an amazing 14ktonnes of CO2eq and the site's value as a greenhouse gas sink is estimated to be worth £2.2 million by 2030! One of the star attractions of the NNR is its breeding cranes and we found out more about their status in the wider UK and internationally. Thankfully the weather was kind to us for the site visits with glorious sunshine on the first day and, though it was somewhat cooler and duller on the second day, at least it stayed dry! The cotton grass was looking especially beautiful and the dragonflies and damselflies were in flight. On Thorne Moors, we learnt about the physical works undertaken by the project, including hydrological management and scrub clearance. On Hatfield Moors, we learnt about the monitoring of nightjars and invertebrates that has been carried out as part of the project. It was exciting to know that the first churring male nightjar of the season had been heard on the reserve just a few days before! Back at the Racecourse, we were very lucky to be joined by our Keynote Speaker, Richard Lindsay, Head of Environmental and Conservation Research in the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of East London. Richard was a Senior Peatland Specialist for almost 20 years and Chairman of the International Mire Conservation Group for 16 years. Richard spoke passionately about paludiculture, which combines wetland agricultural production with wider ecosystem services. He gave a strong and thought-provoking case for developing new wetland industries in the UK that work with our natural wetlands rather than drying them out for more traditional agricultural production. He showed how the rest of the world is already doing this with resulting benefits for climate change and nature conservation. He certainly had us convinced! Andrew Sells, Chairman of Natural England, then very kindly brought the conference to a close. The event wasn't without its challenges, which was inevitable given its size and the logistics of getting 100 people out on to remote sites, and the LIFE Project and NNR staff were certainly ready for a well-earned rest afterwards! However, we were very proud to share the project's achievements with a wider audience and feedback has been excellent. We would like to thank everyone who played a role in making this event a success and everyone who attended.

 

Credit: © Rob Watson