Moorland habitat protection - firing the wildlife
Moorlands. Vast open spaces, no trees, just heather, grasses and bogs as far as you can see all around you. A wild place. But moorlands aren’t wild, they’re man-made. That’s not the only surprise. We help look after our moorland habitats by burning heather and shooting some of the birds.
The first farmers in Britain created moors and heaths, when they cut down trees to make room for their animals and crops. Grazing animals stop more trees growing back, and let heather, grasses and in really wet areas, bog plants grow instead. You can see grazing animals – sheep, cows, ponies and deer – on the moors today.
Good for the grouse – good for the moor
Grouse love upland heather moors, and landowners love grouse birds. People like to eat grouse that have had a wild life on the moor and they will pay money to visit the moorland and shoot the grouse. The landowner uses the money from the shooters to keep the moorland in top condition for more grouse. And that’s good for lots of other moorland wildlife too.
The picture strip below shows some of the birds, mammals, insects and plants that you can see on moorlands that are managed for grouse.
Click on each thumbnail to see a bigger picture and learn more about the wildlife interactions.
How do you keep a grouse happy? By burning it’s heather home!
Grouse like eating the fresh shoots of young heather plants. But for their nests they need older, bigger plants to give them some shelter from the windy moorland weather. And they don’t like to travel too far beween their bed and their dinner table.
How do we create this grouse-friendly heather patchwork? We help landowners burn the heather – carefully! The small bare patches left by the burning make room for new heather plants to grow. We let the old heather get to around 12 years old and then burn it before it gets too straggly for the grouse to nest in. This mixture of different aged heather is ideal habitat for grouse and lots of other moorland wildlife.
What are we doing to help?
We give advice and grants to landowners to burn heather, graze animals and control the growth of bracken and trees. We’ve seen increases in the numbers of rare birds like golden plover and merlin on some of our moorlands. We have documents called 'biodiversity action plans' that list all the things we are going to do to protect rare moorland areas and species.
The links below will give you more detailed information about different types of moors and heaths and the different wildlife they support, and about some projects where we are working with others to protect our moorlands.
- Cairngorms - looking after deer
- Dartmoor - moorland habitats including upland heath, blanket bog, valley mire, grass moor and bracken and lowland heaths
- Exmoor - moorlands
- Exmoor - moorland conservation projects
- Lake District - What's so special?
- Northumberland - heather moorland
- North York Moors - moorland
- Peak District - moors for the future partnership
- Yorkshire Dales - moorland and moorland fringe