Natural England’s LIFE in the Ravines project was launched with £ 5 million in funding.
- The project will restore canyon forests in the Peak District National Park
- The project will deal with the death of ash in the canyons
The future of the beautiful canyon forests in the Peak District looks better with £ 5m funding.
Natural England-led LIFE in the Ravines partnership will address the threat posed by ash death to the forested river valleys of the Peak District. The project was funded with £ 3.6 million from the EU LIFE program, with the remainder coming from project partners.
The scenic canyons of the Peak District are loved by locals and visitors alike, especially during the pandemic when more people seek solace in nature. Life in the gorges will save several forests, including the legendary 5 valleys of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve, such as the well-visited Lathkill. All locations are part of the Peak District Dales special area, which is of international importance.
Natural England General Manager Marian Spain said: I am delighted that Natural England and its partners can work together to help restore nature. This innovative project will help restore the landscape and wildlife of this popular area of the country after the ashes die off. This means that people who live and visit the Peak District can appreciate the natural beauty of forest habitats once again and for generations to come.
Lammergeier, Peak District, Summer 2020, Copyright Richard Stonier, from the Surfbirds Galleries
Project partners include the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the National Trust and the Chatsworth Estate. The project also works with the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire Dales District Council, Arkwright Society, Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust.
Ashes disease, caused by a fungus that is deadly to ash trees, came to the Peak District in 2015. The canyon forests of the Peak District are dominated by ash, so the entire forest area could be destroyed without intervention. The forests are already heavily infected and have lost old trees. The loss of ash threatens the entire forest world, from rare beetles and moths to birds like redtail.
Life in the gorges will help 900 acres of forest weather this threat with a tree planting and forest management program. Small and large-leaved linden and wych elms, historically found in the forest, are planted to get into the spaces that are left behind when ash trees die. The project will not abandon the ashes but will look for trees that may be resistant to the disease and support natural ash regeneration. Planting aspen, willow and other trees increases resilience and adds to the diversity of wildlife in the forest.
The project will advance some specialty techniques, including the first-time use of drones in the Peak District to aid planting on the steep, rocky slopes of the valleys.
The LIFE in the Ravines program will help these special canyon forest ecosystems survive beyond the ashes, thrive in the future, and counter other threats such as climate change and flooding.
The lessons learned from the program will be useful to others fighting ash dieback across Europe, especially in other canyon forests in the UK such as the Mendips.
Natural England leads several other ambitious conservation projects that have benefited from LIFE funding. These include Dynamic Dunescapes, which are working to restore sand dunes across the UK, and LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES, which are rescuing seaweed and other fragile underwater habitats on our shores.
Dave Savage, Regional Manager of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (Dark and White Peak) said: We are very excited to be part of this program to help reduce the effects of this potentially devastating disease. The forests managed by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in White Peak are dominated by ash trees, which means we will lose a large portion of our tree cover. Life in the ravines will have a dramatic impact on the wildlife in the forests and will increase the diversity of trees, but also the biodiversity of the forests themselves.
Julian Woolford, Managing Director of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, commented: At the end of a difficult year, we are very pleased with the funding success of the project. Ashes dieback is very harsh across the UK. Life in the gorges will make a world of difference to protected forests on the other side of White Summit.
John Everitt, Forest Manager at Chatsworth Estate added, “We are delighted that Chatsworth is working with the other partners on this project to help restore some of the most important forests in the Peak District. We have observed and followed the rapid decline in these internationally significant habitats over the past 3 years due to the ash dieback outbreak. It will be fantastic to help diversify these forests and create resilient habitats that will hopefully stand the test of time and benefit the environment for years to come.
Ian Clemmett, Ranger for the White Peak Estate, National Trust, said: It is inevitable that we will see some big changes in our ash forests over the next few years because the ashes are dying. Life in the gorges is a tremendous opportunity to address these changes and future-proof our forests through careful management. The National Trust is pleased to be a partner in this work and to help preserve and enhance our forests here on White Peak for the benefit of wildlife and humans alike.
Sarah Fowler, General Manager of the Peak District National Park, said: Ash forests in White Peak are one of our favorite places in the Peak District, providing shelter not only for wildlife but also for people. Such areas have never been more important to our wellbeing and “green recovery” as they were in the last few months of the pandemic. Life in the canyons will be at the forefront of sustainable and resilient forests where there is a very real risk that the landscape we have known for generations will change dramatically in the years to come. I am delighted that so many partners are coming together to develop such a groundbreaking approach to restoring nature in the national park.