Moorland Management - Recent Research


Below find a summary of the most recent research relevant to moorland management. 

The Final Report of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project Partners 2008-2017

The project was set up to investigate whether it was possible for breeding raptors to co-exist with commercial driven grouse shooting. The main objective was to establish Langholm Moor as a driven grouse moor while meeting the nature conservation objective for the Special Protection Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The project demonstrated that for Langholm Moor there was not a straightforward way to sustain a driven grouse moor and the conservation benefits grouse moor management can provide. The study has helped us better understand the conflicts faced on Langholm Moor and the UK’s other managed grouse moors. The report describes the need for a greater suit of grouse moor management tools alongside incentives to provide public goods, encouraging continued management of the moors despite reduced grouse numbers.

Read the report

Socioeconomic and diversity impacts of driven grouse moors in Scotland, The James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College, jointly commissioned by the Scottish Government

The report demonstrates the importance of the grouse shooting sector to rural areas in Scotland and the scale of what would be lost if investment in grouse shooting was discouraged by over regulation. Key findings include; 

  • 2500 FTE jobs are reliant on the grouse shooting sector 
  • The total Gross Value Added contribution to the Scottish economy is £23million 
  • Estates active in grouse shooting spend £515,000 per annum with local suppliers 
  • Land capability for both agriculture and forestry is low

Read the report.

Responses of breeding waders to restoration of grouse management on a moor in South West Scotland, conducted as part of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (2008-2017), this study was funded by The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Buccleuch Estates and Natural England 

This study found that restoring predator control as part of grouse moor management can reverse declines of some wader species. For example, during the 10 year study period, Curlew numbers increased on average by 10% per annum, Golden Plover numbers by 16% and Snipe numbers by 21%. 

Read the report.

Changes in the abundance of some ground nesting birds on moorland in South West Scotland, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust 

This research looks at the impact of stopping grouse management on birds such as curlew, black grouse and hen harrier. Key findings include; 

  • Increases in the numbers of hen harriers during the keepered phase of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project contrasted with a collective decline in other SPAs in south west Scotland where there was almost no grouse keepering.
  • The numbers of black grouse attending leks declined by 80% during an approximate 15-year period from the early 1990s onwards. However, twice as many lekking males found where gamekeepers were employed to provide driven grouse shooting.
  • Red grouse bags have declined, with 42% of 31 moors now no longer shooting red grouse.
  • In Muirkirk & North Lowther Uplands, where keepering has sharply declined, an 84% drop in golden plover population, 88% drop in lapwing and 61% drop in curlew were recorded.

Read the study.

Spatial and temporal variation in mountain hare (Lepus timidus) abundance in relation to red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica) management in Scotland, The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust 

This analysis concluded that ‘it is likely that driven grouse shooting provides a net conservation benefit to Scotland’s mountain hare population’. Reductions of predators such as foxes and stoats by gamekeepers may improve hare survival, while strip burning to promote new heather growth may help hare diet. Overall, the mountain hare index was higher on driven grouse moors than moors managed for walked-up shooting, or moors with no grouse shooting interest.

Read the study.

Developing a counting methodology for mountain hares (Lepus timidus) in Scotland, The James Hutton Institute and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage

The report identifies two methods that provide reliable information on the abundance of mountain hares. Guidance on how these techniques can be undertaken is also included and nearly 70 gamekeepers across 47 estates have attended formal training workshops. 

Read the report.

The Muirburn Code

The Muirburn Code provides both good practice guidance and sets out statutory restrictions for burning and cutting. When muirburn is done well, in accordance with the code, it can provide benefits including reducing the impact of wildfire. 

Read the code.