Nvironment, Soil Survey and Land Suitability Assessment for Conservation Management on the Lingy Hill SSSI, Upper Teesdale

Background to the Problem / Case Study Objectives

The assignment involves assessing the environmental information that might be used when considering the management of agricultural land where wildlife conservation is a high priority. It includes consideration of the criteria that may be used to assess the relative suitability of land for alternative uses in agriculture, forestry, wildlife conservation and recreation. An assessment of the suitability of land for either agricultural management, or wildlife habitat management and/or habitat creation, involves consideration of various combinations of soil, topographic, climatic, geological and agronomic data. As such, it is typical of many land suitability assessment problems.

The case study will involve an interpretation of a special soil survey of the Lingy Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) located in Upper Teesdale (Payton 1988), and applying the principles learned by this exercise to a smaller area of more detailed soil mapping on the Rock Estate near Alnwick, Northumberland. The survey was commissioned from the Soil Survey and Land Research Centre, Cranfield by the Nature Conservancy Council as a pilot study to assess the value of soil maps and reports for conservation management in this upland environment, which is now within in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area contains many small marginal upland farms that include areas of better pasture on more sheltered lower valley slopes and extensive areas of poor, rough grazing and moorland on exposed hill slopes at higher elevations.

The main wildlife conservation interest that was originally targeted by the SSSI are the herb-rich hay meadows that occupy parts of the valley floors and lower valley side slopes. The previous management of the SSSI involved financial compensation for farmers to maintain specified areas of their land as herb-rich hay meadows, rather than draining, liming, fertilising and reseeding the land to improve grassland for livestock grazing, which would have lead to a loss of biodiversity. Part of the reason for commissioning the soil survey was to provide conservation managers with accurate, independent information about land suitability for grassland improvement and other agricultural uses, so as to better judge whether farmers were over-claiming for the loss of profit/ yield. However, it was also intended to assess how useful the soil map and report would be for locating and managing other potential wildlife habitats and for managing access for recreation. The detailed soil survey at 1:5,000 scale of the Lingy Hill SSSI reveals that there are indeed several other interesting existing wildlife habitats, as well as areas that have a particular potential for habitat creation.

The case study objectives are as follows:-

1. To interpret the soil map and report of Lingy Hill SSSI and assess their value for judging land suitability for: (a) wildlife habitat potential/management; (b) grassland improvement; (c) footpaths to give better access for recreation to sites of conservation interest; and (d) broadleaved forestry trees for amenity or conservation.
2. To explain and justify the extent of the different land suitability classes through a careful study of the soil map and report.
3. To apply similar principles of the land suitability assessment to a part of the 1:10,000 scale soil map of the Rock Estate near Alnwick, Northumberland with the aim of locating land suitable for: (a) wetland habitat creation; (b) native deciduous woodland habitat creation; (c) neutral, base-rich or limestone biodiverse grassland; and (d) a network of footpaths to help plan a farm walk that allows public access to sites of conservation and countryside interest.

Your main sources of information will be the 1:5,000 scale Soil Survey and Land Research Centre soil map and report entitled a?Soils of the Lingy Hill SSSI, Upper Teesdalea? by Payton (1988), and the 1:10,000 scale soil map and report a?Soils of the Rock Estatea? (Payton 1987), but you will also refer to the 1:250,000 scale soil map of Northern England and the accompanying Soil Survey Bulletin 10, a?Soils and Their Use in Northern Englanda? (Jarvis et al 1984).

3. Strategy for approaching the exercise/report

It should be emphasized that there are many factors to consider and you must exercise judgement in explaining the severity of, and the balance between, the selected criteria constraining land suitability for the selected land uses in different parts of the Lingy Hill SSSI. You will obtain good marks by using your knowledge to demonstrate that you can explain why you consider particular areas of land are considered as well suited, moderately suited, poorly suited, or unsuited for intensive grassland production; for footpaths; for forestry; and for specific wildlife habitats. The Soil Survey of England and Wales has land suitability classification systems for grassland (see Soils and Their Use in Northern Englanda? by Jarvis et al 1984 pp.343-354 and Soil Survey Applications by Jarvis and Mackney 1979 pp. 51-70); for footpaths and campsites (see Jarvis and Mackney 1979 a?Soil Survey Applicationsa?166-181); and for forestry (see Soils and Their Use in Northern Englanda? by Jarvis et al 1984 pp. 354-364 and a?Soils of the Alnwick and Rothbury Districta? by Payton 1990 pp. 132-135). However, it should be noted that there is not an accepted land suitability for wildlife habitat conservation classification, as this will vary widely with the habitat/species. In this case you should read the Lingy Hill SSSI report to learn how the soil map and other environmental information have been interpreted for this purpose.

Your final report should consist of:-

a? An explanation and justification of the distribution of the land suitability classes for grassland, footpaths; forestry; and wildlife habitat creation and conservation described in the Lingy Hill SSSI report and how they are derived from information in the soil map and report. This section should summarise in a table(s) the land suitability constraints imposed by the interaction of soil, climate, topographic, hydrological and geological factors at different points on the map (60%) [Approximately 1000 words excluding tables].
a? Your own land suitability assessment on a part of the 1:10,000 scale soil map of the Rock Estate near Alnwick, Northumberland of locating land suitable for: (a) wetland habitat creation; (b) native deciduous mixed oak woodland habitat creation; (c) neutral, base-rich/calcareous semi-natural grassland; and (d) a network of footpaths to help plan a farm walk that allows public access to sites of conservation and countryside interest (40%). [Approximately 500 words excluding tables].

Step 1

You should start your study by carefully reading the report on Soils of the Lingy Hill SSSI, Upper Teesdale (Payton 1988), so that you understand the characteristics of the soils in relation to the landscape and environmental factors such as climate, parent material, and topography (i.e. slope position). You may also need to refer to more detailed descriptions of the soil series that appear in the report, Bulletin No. 10 a?Soils and Their Use in Northern England (Jarvis et al 1984) listed in section 4.

Step 2

Using the 1:5,000 scale soil map included in the Soils of Lingy Hill SSSI report (Payton 1988), the results of your examination of the soil characteristics from Step 1 and the information on soil suitability for multiple land use objectives in Chapter 3 of that report, together with the other sources of environmental information elsewhere in the report, explain and justify the distribution of land suitability classes for grassland production, forestry, footpaths and potential/actual wildlife habitats within the area shown on the soil map (approximately 1000 words). This should be illustrated by a tabular summary of the constraints to grassland production, forestry, footpaths and potential/actual wildlife habitats by the interaction of soil, climate, topographic and other environmental factor