By Paul Marriott

Uplands’ importance to Isle of Man

It’s the fifth in our year-long webinar series with Kerry and Dublin Bay Biospheres today marking the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme.

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Hosted this time by Kerry, the webinar will explore life on the uplands in the MacGillcuddy Reeks, Ireland’s largest mountain range, and the challenges and successes of balancing farming, conservation and leisure use.

The Manx uplands are an important and expansive part of our Biosphere, where more than 8,000 hectares (20% of our Island) are still owned and regulated by the Isle of Man Government.

Public ownership ensures strict regulation of legislation aimed at protecting and enhancing habitats of international significance such as Registered Heathland.

Our uncultivated hill lands are a mix of acid grassland and heather moorland (referred to locally and legally as registered heath), which extends to around 5,600 hectares.

Our upland heaths are grazed at low densities by sheep and, to a lesser extent cattle, and managed traditionally using, well regulated, prescribed burning and cutting on long rotations.

The Island was the first jurisdiction to thoroughly regulate prescribed moorland burning, meaning those who wish to burn must apply for a licence to do so and face prosecution for failing to comply.

DEFA has recently embarked on a large scale peatland restoration project focusing on areas where historic turbary rights and other activities have degraded habitats. It sees this as essential work to help meet the Island’s aim of becoming carbon net zero by 2050. It is estimated that our upland peats soils store over 20 million tonnes of CO2e.

Aside from being the source of all the Island’s drinking water, the hills are also home to some significant and endangered species. Did you know that the Island has the highest density of wintering and breeding hen harrier in the British Isles?

In line with the principles of being a Biosphere nation, DEFA has commenced a new agri-environment scheme with an upland stewardship option which we hope will further enhance and protect our amazing uplands.

The webinar series marks the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme and we and our neighbouring Irish Biospheres are taking it in turns to host them on topics of mutual interest.

UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme Dublin Bay Biosphere Kerry Biosphere reserve #ItsAboutLife

Photo of Cronk ny Arrey Laa by Paul Marriott.

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