Big news announced this week by the DPHT that should have national significance:
DPHT RESEARCH PROJECT EVIDENCES THE BENEFITS OF EQUINES AS CONSERVATION GRAZERS: AIMS TO INFLUENCE GOVERNMENT POLICY
Announced this week as the annual Dartmoor Society Lecture, the initial results of our research project at Bellever with Plymouth University suggest that ponies not only make a positive contribution to conservation management on Dartmoor, but are also a suitable option for conservation grazing schemes throughout the country.
Created in response to a request from Defra and Natural England (NE) to the Dartmoor Pony Action Group three years ago, our research is gathering scientific evidence of the benefits of ponies as conservation grazers in creating suitable conditions for a range of biodiversity; and to influence government policy.
We are delighted that this first report has been accepted by Defra and NE. A Natural England ecologist has said: “The results of this trial provide good evidence of the positive impact of pony grazing on Molinia. The study has been shared with Defra and it will form part of the body of evidence that will help to shape the future Environmental Land Management System’.
According to Paul Lunt, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Plymouth University: “The findings suggest that salt blocks can be used to attract ponies to targeted areas of Molinia-dominated moorland, where other management strategies are not sustainable.
The increased grazing and trampling activity of the ponies in these areas can lead to a reduction in sward height and Molinia cover, facilitating increased germination and establishment of Calluna (Heather) seedlings and plant species diversity. Thus, ponies may provide a suitable option for conservation grazing schemes.”
Says Dru Butterfield of DPHT: “Satellite imagery (Google maps) clearly shows new pony tracks appearing through the Molinia as the ponies have changed their spatial pattern of grazing. The impact they are making and how these results could be extended, particularly to ponies on heathland and uplands, throughout the country, is very exciting. It should be sufficient evidence to ensure that suitably hardy ponies of all types and breeds are recognised and appreciated as effective conservation grazers to support biodiversity and tackle some of the factors affecting our landscapes such as highly invasive, dominating Molinia.”
Recognition of ponies as having a value in conservation terms is seen as critical in helping to ensure they have a better financial value as well as being so important in terms of land management and tourism – not only on Dartmoor. We see this research as having national significance.
Anyone requiring further information about the project, or to enquire about site suitability or ponies, should contact the DPHT at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01626 833234. READ MORE..