Wildlife Trusts saddened by news of burning moorland

Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Lancashire Wildlife Trust would like to thank the fire service for their efforts in dealing with the devastating fire on Saddleworth Moor. Both Wildlife Trusts cover the area affected by the fire and are deeply saddened by the news.

“Our thoughts are with the people who have been affected by the fire and we’d like to recognise the valiant efforts that have been made by the fire service to try and control the blaze,” said Charlotte Harris, Chief Executive at Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

“On a wildlife front, moorland fires on this scale can be devastating,” explained Charlotte. “As it’s peatland, once alight it’s difficult to put out and control as it can burn underground and reignite, as the last couple of days have shown. Our thoughts are with the residents and farmers affected.”

Peatland is a carbon store. Therefore fires like this release the locked up carbon into the atmosphere having a long-term effect on our environment. Both Wildlife Trusts are involved in peatland restoration projects across Cheshire and Lancashire to rewet moors and mosslands. This not only holds back water to reduce flood risk, it also reduces the risk of fires on this scale.

Curlew

Director of Conservation at the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Tim Mitcham said: “The heat generated by the fires is devastating to the fragile upland moorland. Only the most mobile of animals escape and of course we are in peak breeding period for many - from curlew to ant. These animals are on the moors because they like the conditions they find there and ultimately depend upon the plants, many species depend upon specialist moorland plants like cotton-grass and heather. It will have devastating consequences on birds like the curlew which are feeding chicks at the moment. Meadow pipit also nest in tussocks of grass, nests and chicks will not have survived a fire like this.”

The cause of the fire is yet to be established. “The habitat will recover but it will take time”, said Charlotte Harris. “Fires like this can start spontaneously, especially during hot dry weather as we are experiencing at the moment. Unfortunately, they are sometimes started deliberately or as a result of careless behaviour too. Visitors to any wild places should make sure they are careful not to start a fire accidentally from discarded cigarettes, unattended BBQs, or from leaving litter especially glass.”