THE RSPB’s call to members of the public to report heather burning on moorland is unnecessary, deliberately controversial and likely to provoke further abuse of gamekeepers (The Yorkshire Post, February 2).
It is not true to say that controlled vegetation burning is a major source of emissions from areas with peaty soils. The Government’s own statistics show that less than three per cent of emissions from peatland are from controlled vegetation burning.
By contrast 86 per cent of peatland emissions are from lowland peat which is used for agriculture. The peat itself is not affected by the fire as only the tops of the vegetation are burnt, with the fire being quickly extinguished. Ongoing monitoring suggests that a controlled fire offers long term benefits for carbon storage and biodiversity.
Controlled heather burning through the winter seeks to mitigate uncontrolled wildfires in the summer that do burn the peat. Without vegetation management the severity of a summer wildfire – such as at Saddleworth, Winter Hill and Marsden Moor – is significantly increased, resulting in a devastated landscape and catastrophic CO2 emissions.
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