Conserve and Restore Nature and Natural Processes

What does success look like?

Nature recovery at a landscape scale is underpinned by the restoration of dynamic natural processes. Habitats are protected, restored, maintained, cared for, expanded and connected; supported by land management systems and natural capital investment that have the delivery of public goods at their heart.

How will this be achieved?

Dartmoor’s stakeholders will achieve nature recovery at a landscape scale by ensuring that soils are well managed, achieve good condition and are functioning to improve biodiversity, productivity, maximise carbon storage and reduce flood risk, including the following priorities:

Throughout the life of this plan and beyond, maintain Dartmoor’s peatlands, restoring their condition where necessary, so that our peatland resource is not degrading but healthy and accumulating new peat, including through:

  • Working with the SW Peatland Project and the Dartmoor Peatland Partnership restore an additional minimum 1000 hectares of priority blanket bog by 2026
  • Maintaining all restored areas and ensure no degradation of wider peatland resource
  • Increasing capacity and local skills to enable higher levels of annual restoration and sustainable land management to meet government 2050 targets

Increase understanding of carbon storage potential and maximise storage and retention within key Dartmoor soils through land use and management:

  • By the end of 2021 work with experts to understand carbon storage potential of Dartmoor soils and identify and clarify storage potential within different land uses
  • By 2022 produce practical guidance and provide support on measures that will increase the carbon stored in each of the main soil types and land uses on Dartmoor
  • From 2021 work with partners to undertake a ‘stock take’ of current soil carbon storage, combining new measurements with existing mapping to quantify current and projected future change.
  • By 2022 Work with at least 12 land managers to implement changes and demonstrate increased soil carbon storage and productivity by 2024 across key Dartmoor soil types

Improve soil structure, reduce compaction and increase water retention capacity:

  • By 2025 work with 50 farm businesses to explore and implement agreed measures to enhance soil structure and monitor results.
  • By 2024 four farm cluster groups established to explore and share learning
  • In 2021 begin to explore how sustainable soil management can provide increased productivity and economic benefits
  • From 2021 provide support in terms of advice, machinery and source funding to facilitate measures

In order to increase the understanding of soil health, to inform land management and increase soil biodiversity, we will:

  • Establish partnership research and monitoring projects with academic institutions and land managers to test the effectiveness of different interventions
  • Work with farmers to establish several ‘soil improvement test and trial sites’ where different measures are implemented and monitored to assess the efficacy, cost and practicality.
  • Increase understanding of public good benefits derived from healthy soils

Partners will work towards ensuring hydrological systems that are functioning naturally, providing clean, plentiful water and supporting abundant biodiversity. During the life of this plan, we will:

Enhance rivers, streams and floodplains to improve water quality and regain naturalised form and flow: slowing the flow, increasing water storage, reducing the risk of flooding and increasing biodiversity:

  • By 2022 identify sections of river that would provide optimal ecological benefit from restoration
  • Working with farmers and other partners over the five-year period to establish pilot areas in different parts of a catchment (i.e., headwaters to floodplain) where sections of stream and river have been ‘re-naturalised’
  • By 2024 work with partners to integrate a wide range of natural flood management measures within key catchments that will reduce the risk of flooding and improve hydrological systems

Protect and restore wetland habitats, reconnecting them to wider catchment systems:

  • By 2026 restore or re-create wetland habitats, in locations where they can be connected to other habitats
  • By 2022 secure funding to identify and maintain existing high-quality wetland habitat
  • From 2022 encourage and facilitate skills training with local community to provide sustainability, income and resilience for specialist habitat management

Restore the hydrological functions of our degraded blanket bogs and maintain existing sites:

  • From 2020 blanket bog restoration will continue to be targeted at areas where the University of Exeter and South West Water have identified the greatest hydrological opportunities

Partners will achieve habitat improvement and connectivity by striving to manage existing priority habitats adaptively, reflecting environmental change at landscape scale, delivering larger, better connected and diverse habitats:

Review all priority habitats to assess their sustainability in the light of likely climate change effects

  • In 2021 commission a review of all the key wildlife habitats and vegetation types across Dartmoor to assess their resilience and sustainability in the light of likely climate change effects
  • In 2021 develop a ‘bottom up’ mechanism and tool to identify opportunities for habitat creation and connectivity in partnership with landowners, land managers and mapping experts.

Maintain, restore, connect and expand priority habitats that are resilient and adaptable to climate change:

  • By 2026 identify opportunities with landowners and land managers to restore fragmented priority habitats that contributes to landscape scale change
  • By 2026 SSSI will have achieved favourable status if still feasible
  • By 2024 work with farmers, their advisers and other partners to help inform ELMS development and secure the funding required to create and maintain these habitats on the ground.

Partners will achieve restoration of natural processes by supporting dynamic, diverse, and well-functioning ecosystems at landscape scale. Activity to support this aim will include:

Identify and promote a network of landscape scale nature recovery areas across Dartmoor linking to wider Devon and Cornwall landscapes:

  • By 2021 identify pilot NRA catchments where habitat diversity and abundance offer good opportunities for landscape scale nature recovery
  • From 2021 work with partners, landowners, land managers and communities to explore opportunities, interest and ambition to develop and deliver ambitious nature recovery visions
  • By 2022 establish at least two pilot landscape scale nature recovery catchment areas, one of which will explore a whole catchment approach from source to sea. Funding and resources will be secured from 2022 and focused to explore innovative methods and opportunities for significant landscape scale recovery

Two further pilots will have been established and begun with initial funding secured by the end of 2023