The Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme was established by MAFF in 1987 with the aim of providing an incentive to land managers to protect land from intensification in defined areas of significant wildlife, landscape and historic interest. As the scheme evolved its objective was defined as `to maintain and enhance the landscape, wildlife and historic value of each designated area by encouraging beneficial farming practices’.
A total of 22 ESAs were introduced in a series of stages, the most recent (Stage IV), including Dartmoor, in 1994. Each ESA has been subjected to a programme of monitoring since inception, which, in Dartmoor, included botanical monitoring of moorland and haymeadows. The methods used and results for these and other activities are described in the ADAS monitoring report for Dartmoor ESA (ADAS, 1998).
The baseline surveys were undertaken in 1994. The moorland survey was based on a random sample of 50 ‘sites’ (an ADAS plot with radiating transects covering an area of 1 ha for assessing Heather condition) within ‘Section 3’ moorland. A partial resurvey of the moorland sites was carried out in 1997, involving 33 of the 50 sites in the baseline survey (with those with no Heather or subject to recent burns excluded). In view of the small number of the sites under agreement by 1997, 14 additional sites were also surveyed on moorland under agreement. Since then the area of moorland under agreement has increased dramatically and includes the c.11,000 ha of Dartmoor Forest which is now the largest agri-environment agreement in England. A provisional assessment suggests that 39 of the baseline sites are now under agreement, including 12 in Dartmoor Forest.
The haymeadow survey comprised a random sample of 20 (of at the time 40) fields under Tier 2A agreement in 1994. There has been no resurvey.
This project will involve the undertaking of a resurvey of the existing moorland plots, the establishment of a limited number of additional new moorland plots in Dartmoor Forest and analysis to quantify and interpret any changes in vegetation composition, condition and structure from previous surveys. A second module will resurvey the Dartmoor hay meadow sites.
The contractor will undertake a programme of botanical resurvey of existing monitoring sites/plots on moorland and haymeadows in Dartmoor ESA.
The moorland resurvey will comprise all 50 of the random baseline sites, the 14 agreement sites added in 1997 and the establishment of a further 8 sites (giving a total of 20) in Dartmoor Forest (to provide a new baseline for monitoring the Forest agreement). The haymeadow resurvey will comprise the 19 sites under Tier 2A agreement (i.e. excluding one of the 20 baseline sites that is in another tier).
The contractor will undertake botanical recording using the same field methods used for the baseline surveys (as described in the Dartmoor ESA monitoring report), with some minor modifications.
The contractor will analyse the plot data to provide full details of (i) the vegetation community present within each plot, in terms of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) framework; and (ii) changes in the vegetation within the plots, including community variables, vegetation composition (including individual species) and structure; and will (iii) evaluate and explain changes within, and differences between, plots.
The analyses of moorland plots and transects will need to separate the various samples, i.e. full random sample of 50 sites in 1994 and 2002; the subsample of 31 sites in 1994, 1997 and 2003; and the 14 agreement sites in 1997 and 2003. In addition, the Dartmoor Forest sites should also be reported on separately, with change from 1994–2003 for the 12 included in the random baseline and a statement of baseline condition for all 20 in 2003.
The results from both activities should also be interpreted in the context of the agreement status of sites (tier/supplement and length of time under agreement); soil nutrient status; where available, the condition assessment results; and the results of other relevant AES moorland and grassland monitoring nationally.