Conservation Values of the North Pennines.
Recent and future changes in land use policy, economic environment, land ownership and an increasing emphasis on countryside stewardship means land management in the UK countryside is and will continue to change. Land management practices influence landscape, habitat availability and species distributions, which affect societal welfare estimates for the British countryside. This thesis compares elements of socio-economic and ecological value for the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), an upland area of acknowledged conservation importance. The area is composed of privately owned estates, and management is centred on red grouse shooting and upland sheep farming. The aim of this thesis is to compare different elements of conservation related value, and investigate how potential future land use/funding scenarios might ultimately influence these values.
Stakeholders (landowners, red grouse shooting tenants and farming tenants) have differential motivations, and not all are motivated primarily for profits. Estates are classified into two types: those with commercially driven red grouse shooting, and those without. Profits are shown to vary across estates and be negative for many. The commercially driven estates, along with tenant farmers, are likely to embrace conservation if subsidised by government. Approximately twenty percent of the non-commercial estates essentially pay for conservation management, with two estates in particular paying farmers for conservation management. Others may come into conflict with conservation where it is not reconciled with red grouse shooting.
Recent advances in habitat suitability modelling allowed presence only data to be used to predict the distribution of Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species. This technique proved useful and reliable even with small sample sizes, and as expected, each BAP species has different requirements. Agri-environment schemes are shown to be beneficial to 7/15 BAP species, although are detrimental to 2/5 vertebrate BAP species, suggesting that with some attention to vertebrates they can be a strong force for conservation. Contingent valuation was the method chosen to estimate the utility provided by the landscape and biodiversity of the North Pennines. When visitors to the area were surveyed, landscape and biodiversity were both found to be important in preference formation, and significant negative valuations were elicited. Visitors were prepared to pay an average of £10.52 per household annually for the preferred outcome, and an average of £4.22 to prevent the least preferred outcome. A mosaic landscape with increases in blanket bog and the associated increases in rare and threatened birds and mammals (the cute and cuddly effect) was highly valued by respondents.
A framework for incorporating these multiple elements of value was presented, allowing the impacts of potential policy scenarios to be demonstrated, via stakeholder reactions. As well as demonstrating a lack of holistic policy proposals, this model made it clear that a decline in the extent of red grouse shooting would represent a cost to society. This thesis showed how to combine multiple elements of value to assess the wider impacts of potential future policies and economic conditions in an upland case study area, and makes suggestions for incorporating further values into this framework.