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National Park schemes to lessen impact of climate change

[Monday 21 March 2011]

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) is working hard to help local people to offset the effects of climate change.

National Climate Change Week, which starts today (March 21), aims to highlight the positive steps being taken in communities and organisations across Britain to combat the effects of climate change - the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today.

The beautiful landscape of the National Park is also playing a part in offsetting the impact of climate change through its trees, soils and peatland.

The Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) – funded and led by staff from the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park Authorities, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the National Trust and the Environment Agency – aims to work with local landowners to restore 34,000 hectares of peatland by blocking drainage ditches, restoring eroding gullies and returning plant cover to bare peat.

Dr Tim Thom, the YPP Project Manager and the YDNPA’s Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer, said: “Healthy peat is a major absorber of carbon – hence its historical use as fuel – locking it away rather than sending it into the atmosphere, a process that may contribute to climate change.

“Unfortunately, the beautiful Dales landscape is marred by large brown scars and deep gashes from patches of bare peat and eroding gullies. These have been caused mainly by human action in the last century, such as the introduction of artificial moorland drainage, as well as accidental wildfires. This has left the peat to dry out and erode away. Now, we are working with landowners to help them to restore a more natural balance across large swathes of the National Park.

“Members of the public can help by always using peat-free compost and refusing to buy plants that are grown in peat. They can also find out if their local authority has signed the peatland protection charter – and if not, ask why. And they can visit a peatland nature reserve and experience the unique and beautiful environment first-hand.”

On another front, the YDNPA is developing a Forest Habitat Network, which was started six years ago and creates new areas of woodland linked by vegetation ‘corridors’ that provide cover for animals as they move between the areas.

Geoff Garrett, the YDNPA’s Senior Trees and Woodland Officer, said: “It’s widely accepted that woodland plays an important part in helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and creating safe havens for wildlife.

“Over the last six years, the Dales Woodland Restoration Programme has funded the creation of 450 ha of new native woodland in the National Park, almost all of which is on privately-owned land. The Programme is jointly-funded by the Forestry Commission, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the Authority.

“We now aim to plant about 100 hectares of woodland a year for the rest of this decade – that’s about 100,000 trees.”

Across the National Park, local people are leading the way in showing how renewable technologies can be used to provide power, save money and create environmental benefits.

Two hydropower schemes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park are set for completion this spring.

The biggest of the two, a community project on the River Bain at Bainbridge, is due to reach a milestone on Wednesday when a huge Archimedes screw that will drive the generator is lowered into place. It will generate enough electricity to power 40 houses, saving 80 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The other scheme involves using water from a small stream falling from a great height at Manor Farm, Halton Gill. This farm diversification project will provide an upland farm with an alternative source of long-lasting income with low maintenance and running costs. The projected energy generation will be equivalent to the consumption of 20 to 25 households.

The new climate change section of the YDNPA website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/climatechange gives details of all the projects and information on how you can be ‘greener’ too.

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