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Cumbria habitats surveyed for first time

Ecologist Robyn Guppy of Haycock & Jay Associates in Hodgehill Wood near Sedbergh, inputting survey data into a tablet.

[E]cologists are for the first time assessing the condition of ‘priority habitats’ in the parts of Cumbria and Lancashire that became part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has commissioned Otley-based ecologists, Haycock & Jay Associates, to survey up to four thousand hectares of vitally important habitats such as upland hay meadow, native woodland and blanket bog.

The firm began work in May, and by the end of next month will have surveyed priority habitats in an area including the parishes of Tebay, Firbank, Killington, Middleton, Barbon, Mansergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Casterton, Leck, Barrow-with-Burrow and Ireby where landowner permission has been granted.

To see how the ecologists carry out the work, read their latest blog, which illustrates how an ancient semi-natural woodland near Sedbergh was surveyed earlier this summer.

YDNPA Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer, Tony Serjeant, who is responsible for the survey, said:  “It is exciting that for the first time we are taking a close look at the state of the most important habitats in the newest parts of the National Park.  These areas have not been surveyed in this way before, so we are breaking new ground.

“I would like to thank all the farmers and landowners who have permitted us access onto their land.  We are confident that they will benefit, as all the data collected can be made available to them to aid their decision-making.  It can be used, too, to support agri-environment scheme applications and other bids for funding.”

Data collected as part of the 2018 survey will be studied over the coming months and the results made publicly available next year.

The survey is part of a 10-year programme running from 2010-2020.  By 2020, the condition of priority habitats across the Park outside of Sites of Special Scientific Interest will have been assessed. The process will then be repeated so that comparisons can be made and long-term trends established.

Last year’s survey of priority habitats in Swaledale showed that 60% of them by area were in good condition.

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