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The South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation covers around 650 km² of northern England. Since 2003, the Moors for the Future Partnership (MFFP) has been working to reverse more than 200 years of damage from industrial pollution and wildfires that left large areas of uplands bare of important vegetation. Using OS data, MFFP created a Land Cover Map which gave vital information to the project before work could start.

What were the challenges?

  • Dealing with significant long-term decline in the blanket bogs of the Peak District and South Pennines – caused by a range of natural and human factors.
  • Reversing the effects of a large area of bare and eroding peat and damaged vegetation. This damage has affected the ecosystems services that the area has always supplied: clean drinking water; carbon storage in the form of peat; animal grazing, and human recreation. Peat also stores carbon dioxide – the gas which contributes towards climate change.
  • To conserve and protect Active Blanket Bog, MFFP is working to diversify areas dominated by a single plant species by re-introducing sphagnum mosses.
  • Before the work could start, the team needed to know and easily visualise exactly what was growing, where.

What was the solution?

As well as identifying areas that have become dominated by single species, our Land Cover Map will also aid the planning of land management and restoration works, and provide a baseline for monitoring the delivery, impacts and outcomes of our MoorLIFE 2020 project. It is already being used by our science team to identify possible field monitoring sites.

Dr Jon Walker, Science Programme Manager, MFFP

As the area that needed to be mapped was so large, satellite and aerial imagery were combined with field survey data, and analysed to produce a Land Cover Map of the area with various habitats (with the help of consultants Environment Systems Limited).

OS data was used including OS MasterMap layers which could mask out features such as water and manmade/urban before the mapping started. This was pivotal to the project as using satellite imagery alone would not have picked up roads, rivers and houses obscured by trees etc.

OS MasterMap Topography data provided detailed views of the landscape, while surveyors and volunteers used OS 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster maps to go out and directly observe 233 areas for clarification or ‘ground truthing’ before data was then updated to the geographic information system (GIS) and included on the final land classification maps.

What were the outcomes?

  • OS MasterMap Topography provided the most detailed and accurate location data for work to start.
  • The maps are a key visual aid to support publicity to landowners and members of the public.
  • OS mapping provided a baseline at the start of the project as well as an easy way to target future restoration works.
  • The map helps project data sharing with others who use OS data.
  • Will help MMFP’s ultimate aim to restore a wetter more resilient habitat with a reduced risk of wildfire and downstream flooding, and safeguard moorland life for the future.

The products used

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Natural England's priority habitat inventories hold data about nationally important areas of conservation (such as lowland meadows and blanket bog). However, the varying quality of information made the database difficult to maintain. Thanks to OS’s MasterMap Topography Layer, the separate datasets have been consolidated into a single layer, saving staff time, effort and money.

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