Priority: Spectacular landscapes, natural networks

– conserving and enhancing Dartmoor's diverse landscapes, natural ecosystems and improving the connections between them, both within and across National Park boundaries

Dartmoor's granite massif rises out of the Devon lowlands to form a dramatic landscape with a distinctive geology, flora and fauna. Dartmoor constitutes both the largest upland and area of semi-natural vegetation in southern England, and forms the most extensive granite landscape in England. The wildness and peace of the open moor with extensive dark night skies make Dartmoor stand apart as a place of inspiration and spirituality. These are increasingly rare qualities cherished by both local communities and visitors.

Dartmoor's characteristic landscapes are defined and described in the Landscape Character Assessment. The combination of these landscape features, along with the effects of a climate dominated by Atlantic influences, has produced a unique mix of characteristic habitats and species. This includes important vegetation communities such as blanket bogs, upland heaths, upland oak woods, rhôs pastures, lowland pastures and valley mires. In turn, these habitats contain a unique assemblage of wildlife including endemics and a number of species for which Dartmoor holds most, if not all, the UK population.

Targeted action to protect and enhance Dartmoor's habitats and species is guided by Living Dartmoor. This will set out how progress will be made towards Biodiversity 2020 (the England Biodiversity Strategy) targets and ambitions, including an updated set of habitat and species plans. The role of Living Dartmoor is to co-ordinate work which will enable a network of healthy, diverse habitats to benefit wildlife, landscapes, people and natural resources for a sustainable future.

The landscape and natural environment have been shaped by human activity and management over thousands of years, and continue to be influenced by our actions today. These links cut across the Management Plan; for example, farming and land management is particularly important to maintaining landscape character and wildlife (see the Future of Farming and Forestry), and the natural environment underpins the ecosystem services delivered on Dartmoor.

What are the issues and opportunities?

  • Under-grazing in some areas of the moor leading to dense vegetation; in places changing the open character of the landscape, affecting habitats and impeding access (National Character Area Assessment, Recreation & Access Strategy).
  • Intensive grazing (and recreational pressure) on parts of the moor leading to degradation of heathland habitats (National Character Area Assessment).
  • Some habitats and wildlife under threat from inappropriate management, fragmentation, invasive non-native species and climate changes.
  • Helping people to discover and understand more about Dartmoor’s unique natural and cultural heritage.
  • Threats from inappropriate development in, and affecting, the National Park.
  • Use of Dartmoor for military training.

What are we trying to achieve?

In responding to these challenges, we have identified the following five key areas where action should be focused over the Plan period:

  • build coherent and resilient ecological networks;
  • support stable or increasing populations of priority species;
  • connect people with nature;
  • conserve and enhance Dartmoor’s distinctive landscapes;
  • continued good environmental management of the Dartmoor Training Area.

The key areas can be seen in detail by selecting the read more button below.

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