Skip to main content


Title: The Impact of Grazing and Upland Management on Erosion and Runoff
Author: Johns M
Author: Environment Agency
Document Type: Monograph
Annotation: Environment Agency Project ID:EAPRJOUT_1441, Representation ID: 492, Object ID: 2595
The fundamental conclusion of this project is that the enhanced removal of vegetation, erosion of soil and rock and the consequential increased -runoff of water is a widespread problem in the British uplands.. Where academic study has failed to yield evidence of this, anecdotal and -photographic.evidence has managed to do so..The net effects of this enhanced erosion have severe impacts on the functions of. the Environment Agency and- the wider economy. It would appear that the impact of intensive grazing pressure forms a large component, of the cause of the problem; However, other mechanisms do cause soil erosion in the uplands. The creation of bare soil from the effects of agents such -as -fire: bracken control and forestry exacerbates- the impacts of other erosion mechanisms. The presence of grazing animals on such areas of bare soil increases the erosionarates and retards the return of .vegetation (which has the potential to reduce erosion and runoff). In general, agriculture has become more intensive,-especially in lowland-areas, in that stocking densities- and the .numbers of sheep reared .have risen in some locations. However, upland farming- could also be considered as extensive, in terms of, mass reductions in labour. .:This has direct consequences for management which has effectively.decreased, resulting in a lack of shepherding (pre-war ratioas of shepherds to sheep were 1:2-300, today the ratio can be. as large asa 1:12-1500; Spensley, personal communication). Therefore, uncontrolled livestock cause hotspots of grazing pressure and impacts from hooves. In the past, the management of the uplands and grazing animals was a sustainable symbiotic relationship. The numbers of sheep grazed was controlled by the amount of a. fodder produced by the land and the ability of the farmer to transport feed to remote moortops.- Today,..artificial feeds are used to sustain large flocks, and IAll Terrain Vehicles can transport the feeds to remote areas, promoting year round grazing. a Winter grazing is particularly damaging as the vegetation is not growing during this period. In addition, stressed vegetation is more susceptible to extreme environmental. .a conditions (e.g. drought, freezing cold) and the creation or enhancement of btie soil is more likely when such conditions occur. : The problems caused by grazing pressures and trampling may not simply be due to the higher densities of sheep on the hills: but due to a combination of high densities of sheep and the low numbers of shepherds who can reduce concentrations of livestock and spread the impact of grazing and-trampling. All -agencies concerned with this issue should focus on ,the wider aspects of the catchment, not just discrete are,as (e.g. moorlands, ESAs: SSSIs, LFAs). Long-term data sets are. required to quantify the problem; these are currently unavailable. However, the areas affected by erosion and high runoff (e.g. Swaledale) do have people living and working in them and they could. be considered as alaboratoriesa which have had long-term experiments running in them. It is therefore R and D Technical Report P 123 iv worthwhile remembering these people and using their knowledge and experiences to gaip a qualitative understanding of the problems. However, this type of information should not be used as a basis for remediation strategies, qualitative datasets are also required. It is apparent from the review of literature conducted that the academic community has a full variety of conclusions on the subject of grazing, erosion and runoff which are often at odds with each other. The variety of findings from the study of the subject can be attributed to the scale at whidh the problem or process is viewed. Generally, experimental catchments are small and therefore tend to be non-representative. An overall model is required as different effects occur at different scales. To achieve this: long-term studies need to be initiated in a variety of different catchments. A final consideration involves the timescale over which erosion problems are viewed. For example, there will be another glaciation in the future, the effects of which will mask the impacts of grazing induced erosion seen today. Alternatively, if a long return-period flood event occurs: such as that seen in Eastern Europe- during July 1997, the impacts on the landscape will negate the physical scars of grazing induced erosion. However, while the effects of current upland erosion may be regarded as small-scale when compared to events such as glaciations, they are obviously of great significance to current ecological and socio-economic systems. Everyone who has become involved in the uplands in any way (fora example, farmers, conservationists, and walkers) has a responsibility for their physical and biological well-being. The actions of humans in the uplands will also affect other ecological and socio-economic systems in the lowlands. Instead of being fatalistic about the impact of large scale physical events, we should be positive about the natural importance of these areas and promote their longevity as part of an overall strategy of sustainable development. Erosion, runoff, grazing, sheep, impact, upland, management. R and D Technical Report P 123 V 1.
Publisher: Environment Agency
Subject Keywords: Runoff; Management; Erosion; Grazing; Impact; Sheep; Upland
Extent: 59
Total file downloads: 5

Download PDF    Display PDF in separate tab