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Centre for Landscape Regeneration

Photo of Researchers in a Fenland Field

Protecting the Fenlands

Drained peat provides some of the UK's most fertile soil, and The Fens, in Cambridgeshire, contain almost 25% of all the lowland peat in England and Wales. As a result half of all Grade 1 farmland in England is found in the Fens and the area produces 22% of England's crop output and 35% of its vegetable production. Half of UK-grown lettuce and more than 75% of UK-grown celery is grown in the Fens, alongside salads and key vegetable crops, such as carrots, leeks, potatoes, onions and beetroot. Its farming industry contributes more than £3 billion to the rural economy and employs tens of thousands in a region that has high unemployment and deprivation. Yet the Fens face several environmental challenges.
For one, it is estimated that only 1% of the Fens' original wetlands remain intact and it has lost 30% of its peatlands, emitting millions of tonnes of carbon in the process. Just as alarmingly, the region is projected to run out of water in 5 to 10 years, whilst simultaneously being threatened by rising sea levels. With agriculture in the region being of such vital importance to both the local community and the UK as a whole, simply rewilding the Fens to preserve and restore its ecosystem is not an option. The Centre's researchers are therefore working to find the best ways of protecting both the Fens’ ecosystem and its farmers by developing an integrated framework for the Fens to reconcile food production, reduce carbon emissions, secure water resources, manage flood risk, enrich biodiversity and improve resilience.

Expanding Habitats in the Cairngorms

The Cairngorms is a national treasure and a popular tourist destination but its ecology is severely imperilled and the region has suffered significant degradation and wildlife loss. It is under particular threat from climate change, as well as deforestation, erosion and the loss of iconic species found nowhere else in the UK. The region has more than 5,000 recorded species, 20% of which are nationally rare or scarce. It is a national stronghold for many species, including capercaillies, Scottish wildcats, red squirrels, dark-bordered beauty moths, common goldeneyes, European crested tits, golden eagles, pine martens, Scottish crossbills, narrow-headed ant, Northern silver stiletto fly, twinflower and green shield-moss. Yet key habitats have been impacted by centuries of changing land use demands, with land cleared and drained and floodplains modified for food production or forestry.
In particular, natural habitats have been replaced by Scots pine and non-native conifer plantations for timber and by open moorlands which are managed for sport hunting. The Centre is working to help expand and restore the region's spectacular ancient Caledonian forests, which have been affected by biodiversity loss and the encroachment of non-native tree species. In turn the restorations of these habitats will help protect and regenerate populations of threatened rare plant and animal species for which the Cairngorms is their national stronghold.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Lake District

The Lake District is a national treasure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination, but it is also a key farming region for the UK. Future changes in agricultural subsidies present both challenges and opportunities for landscapes in the Lake District.