Birkbeck Lectures 2014: Restoring our lowland heathlands and acid grasslands in a changing climate

Date: -

Restoring our lowland heathlands and acid grasslands in a changing climate

part of the series 'This blasted heath–the future of lowland heathland, acid grassland and mire'

Partner Event @Birkbeck University of London, Lecture theatre B36

Free public lecture series, Autumn 2014.

18:30 Friday 7th November 14th 2014

lowland heathlands and acid grasslands

In Act I of “Macbeth”, Shakespeare used a heath near Forres as the forbidding setting of a supernatural encounter. Heaths have long had a bad public image. Most heaths are ancient. They were established when woodland was cleared in places with an underlying geology forming an impoverished acidic soil, and maintained by traditional practices. However, they are diminishing throughout the country, even if pockets are still to be found in the southern counties and in the suburbs of London. These remnant heathlands are now much valued as natural open spaces. They are precious because they support a specialised biota, some of which is not found elsewhere. Loss may occur from ecological succession following the neglect of traditional management, or conversion to agriculture or to urban development. How can the remaining patches be saved? How can these important areas be managed to best effect? Management practices in different sites will be discussed and compared. Current problems will be highlighted and specialised conditions for particular groups of plants and animals discussed.

Nov 7th. Restoring our lowland heathlands and acid grasslands in a changing climate. Dr Malcolm Ausden, Principal Ecologist at RSPB.

Malcolm Ausden is Principal Ecologist at the RSPB. His main roles are advising on habitat restoration, particularly of lowland heathland, intertidal habitat and freshwater and brackish wetlands, overseeing monitoring on RSPB reserves, and providing guidance on the predicted impacts of climate change on wildlife and how best to respond to these. He has written a book on habitat management for conservation, together with several book chapters on habitat management and on survey and monitoring techniques. He has recently contributed to the Climate Change Adaptation Manual produced by Natural England and the RSPB, which is available on the internet.
The UK is expected to remain internationally important for lowland heathland for the foreseeable future, even though its species complement is expected to change significantly as a result of climate change. However, the area of lowland heathland in the UK has declined greatly, and much of our remaining lowland heathland is in small and fragmented blocks. In the first part of the lecture, he will describe different techniques for increasing the extent, and size of patches, of lowland heathland and acid grassland, using examples of heathland restoration from sites such as Minsmere and Farnham Heath. He will then go on to discuss challenges of managing lowland heathland in a changing climate, covering issues such as nutrient enrichment, the drying out of wet heath, fire management, human disturbance and grazing.

This free public lecture is part of a series hosted by Geography Environment and Development Studies (GEDS), Birkbeck University of London. The lectures are suitable for those who may be considering, or undertaking, university courses in ecology, biological conservation or related subjects. They will interest environmental and ecological practitioners, natural historians, wildlife organisations and others with similar interests.

The lectures are supported by GEDS, Birkbeck University of London and would not be possible otherwise. They are organised and promoted by the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society, with assistance from the Linnean Society of London.