THE PUMLUMON PROJECT
The landscapes surrounding Pumlumon are breathtaking, not only for their raw natural beauty, but for their wide horizons and sense of space. However, like most of the uplands across Wales, intensive land use activities have resulted in a significant loss of biodiversity, with many of the habitats being either lost or degraded to poor condition. Over-grazing by sheep has induced soil compaction, which has resulted in increased flooding of the lowland areas. The Pumlumon area is the largest watershed in Wales and is the source of the rivers Wye, Severn and Rheidol.
Our world is changing as the climate warms up and this change affects wildlife, and the people that live and work in Wales. If the countryside and environment are healthy, then plants and animals can adjust to this change. A robust natural environment is important for people too. If we manage the countryside in the right way, we can help to keep our air clean, our water safe, our food plentiful, and our homes secure from flooding. The Pumlumon Project is about changing the way we manage the countryside in the uplands to make sure the natural environment is as healthy as possible. This work will also help bring money into the area from tourism and will help create new jobs and new skills. We will work with local people and communities so that they are involved with the plans and so that we can protect and respect the local heritage.
For these plans to work, we need to think big! The Pumlumon Project stretches over more than 40,000 hectares of the northern Cambrians and is one of the biggest projects of its kind in Europe. The work is being led by the Wildlife Trusts in Wales, with the support of the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and many others. But the Project’s aims can only be achieved by creating new working partnerships between conservation, farming and forestry, and tourism interests. This is what we are now doing in the development stage of the Project.
Our vision is to work with local people to guide a major change in the way the land is managed, to create a more varied landscape that is rich in wildlife and to give the local communities a better future.
The work can be described as having eight elements:
- Carbon Storage
When bogs are drained, they dry out and break down, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This increases the rate of climate change. By blocking ditches on drained upland peat bogs allowing them to re-wet, we can improve their condition, create new areas for wildlife and help slow down climate change. When peat bogs are in good condition, tonnes of carbon are locked away in the peat and more are absorbed by the growing bog mosses.
- Reconnecting habitats
To thrive, plants and animals need big areas of natural habitats such as woodland, hedgerows and tall grass so that they can spread, grow and move. Natural habitats can be cut off by roads, buildings and large areas of species poor farmland. By creating links between the natural habitats, the plants and animals have room to move and thrive again.
- Storing flood water
Unhealthy bogs are dry and cannot hold much water, so the rainwater runs off, increasing the chances of flooding further downstream in the valleys. A healthy bog can hold enormous quantities of water like a giant sponge, releasing water slowly into the rivers and helping to prevent floods. By changing the management of the bogs we can help them to hold more water.
- Bringing back wildlife
Each country in the world has a list of their most threatened habitats and species. An Action Plan has been drafted of each of these to aid their recovery. Drawing on these biodiversity action plans we will target specific work to help the most threatened plants, habitats and animals in the Pumlumon area, ensuring that the wildlife is richer and healthier.
- Changing grazing patterns
Different types of grazing animals create different types of habitat. The Pumlumon area is mostly grazed by sheep resulting in vast areas of very short turf and tufts of coarse grasses that are not of great value for wildlife. By introducing more cattle, and by varying the times the animals graze and the number of animals on each area, we can create a varied landscape with more diverse habitats and a richer wildlife. In addition we can help farmers diversify into the production of conservation-grade, slower growing hill beef.
- Recreating habitats
Some of the habitats in the Pumlumon area have become so damaged over time that they have almost lost their wildlife interest, and the amount of threatened and rare habitats has decreased over time. Using a mixture of traditional farming techniques and new and exciting technologies, we can restore the damaged habitats and create new areas of habitat that are better for wildlife.
- Developing Green Tourism
We will be making it much easier for people to access the area’s natural heritage, by providing better and more appropriately sited accommodation, and by providing information through visitor centres, websites, leaflets and signs, and by developing new tourism products (for example, a circular trail linking habitat restoration sites and corridors). In this way, we can increase people’s understanding of the aims of the project, and also increase visitor spending in the area and the incomes of local people.
- Involving communities
It is important to involve local communities in the work of the Pumlumon Project, and to support community-generated initiatives that will help deliver the Project's objectives. We will create an environmental 'task force' and provide training for volunteers, thus helping to improve local skills. We will work with local communities to identify and implement projects to improve their local environment. To help diversify local business and help increase local incomes, we will help to set up some local value-added food schemes linking tourism businesses with local farmers.