Search site

School of Geography

River Basin Processes and Management Projects

Freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem function in changing moorland landscapes

PI: Lee Brown (University of Leeds)

Co-I: Joseph Holden (University of Leeds), Mark Ledger (University of Birmingham), Adrian McDonald (University of Leeds)

Overview: The hydrology, soils and ecology of moorland are vulnerable to local environmental change, and in many areas uninformed management has increased erosion and flooding, and degraded the water quality and biodiversity of streams. Whilst much research has been directed at the terrestrial component of moorland, the aquatic habitats they support are rarely investigated. In particular, we know little about the structure of ecological communities in rivers and streams draining moorland (particularly heavily managed moors). A number of rivers that drain moorland in England, including the Eden, Wharfe, Cumbrian Derwent, Yorkshire Derwent, Camel and Wye, are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with some of these additionally designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats and Species Directive. Thus a more complete understanding of the communities inhabiting moorland streams, and their response to habitat variability and management pressures, is vital if agencies such as Natural England (NE) are to protect these sites and the wider network of upland streams, and guide sustainable restoration and management schemes.

The main aim of this project is to understand how contemporary changes in UK moorlands influence the structure (algal and macroinvertebrate biodiversity) and function (production, trophic interactions) of stream ecosystems,and consider the conservation implications of these findings through collaboration with Natural England. Specifically, the project will examine the influence of spatiotemporal differences of moorland stream physicochemistry across 'intact' moorlands. Subsequent analyses will compare these intact 'control' sites with streams draining sites subject to controlled burning (utilising paired catchment approaches).

Start date: 01 October 2008

End date: 30 September 2012

Funder: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Open CASE

Grant reference: NE/F013663/1

Details: NERC Grants on the Web