Contextualizing UK moorland burning studies with geographical variables and sponsor identity.

Published online
24 Nov 2020
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Brown, L. E. & Holden, J.
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It has been claimed that geographical variability could alter conclusions from some studies examining the impacts of prescribed moorland burning, including the Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins (EMBER) project. We provide multiple lines of evidence, including additional analyses, to refute these claims. In addition, new findings from EMBER study catchments highlight previously unconsidered issues of burning adjacent to and over watercourses, contrary to guidelines. A systematic review confirms the EMBER conclusions are in line with the majority of published UK studies on responses to prescribed burning of Sphagnum growth/abundance, soil properties, hydrological change and both peat exposure and erosion. From this review, we identify an association between sponsor identity and some recent research conclusions related to moorland burning. This additional variable, which has not previously been incorporated into moorland burning policy debates, should be given greater consideration when evidence is being evaluated. We also show that sponsorship and other perceived conflicts of interest were not declared on a recent publication that criticized the EMBER project. Policy implications. Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins (EMBER) findings still suggest multiple environmental impacts associated with prescribed vegetation burning on peatland. Non-compliance with guidelines for heather burning alongside/over watercourses merits closer attention. Policy communities might need to consider potential influences associated with funder identity when evaluating studies.

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