Peak District

In recent years, wildfire frequency has increased throughout the UK uplands, placing important landscapes for carbon storage and natural capital at risk of damage or destruction. Pathways towards improved socio-ecological resilience will be key to managing future wildfires, and safeguarding these natural assets.

This research, which is funded by the Royal Geographical Society and the Association for Environmental Archaeology, aims to build understanding of risk awareness and the impacts of wildfire on communities and livelihoods through engagement with stakeholders in the Peak District National Park (PDNP). Through analysis of deep-time relationships between vegetation, fire and climate, natural science data will be used to inform future landscape management in relation to wildfire.

Wildfire and prescribed burning have played important roles in shaping UK landscapes, but uncontrolled fires can have significant negative impacts, damage ecosystem function and reduce carbon sequestration. 

Rising temperatures combined with prolonged dry periods and fuel accumulation, have enhanced vulnerability to wildfire. Social, cultural and natural factors affect the ability of communities to adjust decision-making pathways towards resilience. 

Only by considering deep-time perspectives can we properly understand how ecosystems respond to fire under different climatic and land-use conditions.

Peak District
Peak District National Park

Peat sediment cores are being collected from blanket bog and heather moor within the Peak District National Park. Analyses of microscopic fossil pollen and charcoal within these sediments will be used to establish relationships between burning trends, land-cover and climate over decadal to multi-centennial timescales. Information about past land-cover change will be used to establish pre-disturbance conditions and to characterise what fuel conditions lead to increased wildfire. 

Community awareness of wildfire hazards is often limited to recent events and does not include long-term perspectives. Through a participatory workshop, research outputs illustrating past burning, climate and vegetation patterns will be shared with participants who will be asked to contribute information based on their local knowledge.

Peat core
Peat sediment core