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University of York, Environment Department

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This is a focused workshop to take forward our understanding of the impacts of climate change on blanket bogs and the implications for conservation. It is open to all and will particularly be of interest to those involved with research on the topic or its application in conservation planning and management. We welcome participation by PhD students and early career researchers as well as more established scientists.

Recent reviews of Climate Change Impacts in the UK, including most recently the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment have highlighted that there is still uncertainty about a number of issues, which have important implications for how we approach climate change adaptation. In particular there is debate about the extent to which management history and climate determine present day distribution and the scope for restoration to increase the resilience of degraded blanket bog to climate change

Blanket bog is a priority habitat for conservation, which supports a unique biodiversity and a wide range of ecosystem services including carbon and water storage. It is found in cool, wet conditions in the uplands of Britain. Climate change projections show that Britain’s climate is likely to warm and experience changing precipitation patterns; drier summers and a higher proportion of rainfall falling in heavy storms are common features of the best available models. Climate envelope models indicate that this would decrease the suitability of marginal upland sites for blanket bog. However, climate envelope models do not take into account ecological processes and are constrained by how closely the current distribution reflects climate. Blanket bog formerly occupied a wider range in Britain and its present distribution reflects patterns of drainage and management as well as climate. Blanket bog in good condition also has a high resilience and has survived through previous climatic fluctuations. There clearly are climatic limits in which blanket bog can form and survive but it is not clear how close to them current blanket bogs are and how much this can be influenced by better management.

The impacts of climate change on blanket bog are a subject of debate and there are a number of important questions:

  • What are the actual climatic limits of blanket bog, taking account of variables such as cloud cover and orographic deposition?

  • At what point would anthropogenic climate change mean that blanket bog ceases to be sustainable in different places?

  • Are past fluctuations in climate a reliable indicator of future change?

  • Can restoration of blanket bog increase resilience sufficiently quickly to offset the effects of climate change?

  • What sort of ecosystems does blanket bog change into in a less suitable climate?

  • How does topography and geology influence the effects of climate change on blanket bog?

Much of the day will be given over to discussion with all participants having the opportunity to contribute through break-out groups. There will also be the opportunity to give very short presentations or posters. If participants agree we will aim to produce a publication following the meeting.

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University of York, Environment Department

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