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Charity warns of rise in moorland burning

Charity warns of rise in moorland burning

Published at 7:40am 21st July 2015. (Updated at 6:05pm 21st July 2015)

Conservation areas in Yorkshire are being damaged by the increasing use of moorland burning, according to one leading charity.

A new study, led by the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, has found evidence that it increased 11% year-on-year between 2001 and 2011.

Burning on moorland is widely used to boost numbers of red grouse which are available for recreational shooting. 

The report found that burning was detected in 55% of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 63% of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) across the UK.

Roy Taylor, Reserves Area Manager for the RSPB, told Stray FM: "The Yorkshire Dales is up there in the top three or four most intensely burned areas in the UK.

"What we're talking about is the equivalent of us chopping down tropical rainforests.

"We're releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, into the water and reducing the value of our natural habitats at the same time."

Dr David Douglas, lead author of the study, added: "Upland ecosystems are highly sensitive to burning practices.

"Knowing how much burning takes place and where is crucial to developing sustainable land management policies for these precious environments."

Supporters of moorland burning have criticised the findings, claiming that burning actually helps with conservation.

Duncan Thomas, Regional Officer for The British Association for Conservation and Shooting, said: "Moorland heather burning is an essential process in the management of these amazing areas.

"Not only does it create incredible biodiverse habitats, but it also acts as essential fire breaks.

"If these areas aren't managed, then there's an enormous fire risk that develops.

"Areas that are managed in this way have amazing populations of wildlife - in fact one of the moors that we do some management on had over 50 species of birds on it."