This report assesses how vulnerable the special qualities of the Peak District National Park (PDNP) are to future climate change. The assessment will help to ensure that activities undertaken to reduce the harmful effects of climate change are effectively and efficiently targeted. The report and its recommendations will be useful to everyone interested in caring for and protecting the National Park.
Climate change is likely to affect the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the PDNP. It will also negatively impact many ecosystem services that we benefit from such as food production and water quality. Practical interventions that will help the PDNP adapt to a changing climate need to be developed and prioritised. To do this effectively an understanding of the vulnerability of the PDNP’s special qualities to climate change is needed.
The assessment report was produced by collating evidence and knowledge from a broad range of sources and experts. The assessment is the degree to which a feature of a National Park special quality is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. The assessment took into account four factors: the current condition of the feature, the sensitivity of the feature to climate change, the exposure of the feature to climate change and the adaptive capacity of the feature.
# Special qualities and features
The following ‘special qualities’ define what is distinctive and significant about the PDNP.
- Beautiful views created by contrasting landscapes and dramatic geology.
- Internationally important and locally distinctive wildlife and habitats.
- Undeveloped places of tranquillity and dark night skies within reach of millions.
- Landscapes that tell a story of thousands of years of people, farming and industry.
- Characteristic settlements with strong communities and traditions.
- An inspiring space for escape, adventure, discovery and quiet reflection.
- Vital benefits for millions of people that flow beyond the landscape boundary.
This report assesses a broad selection of the measurable individual ‘features’ that underpin the PDNP’s special qualities. Features are components that make up the special quality, for example, a specific habitat, species or heritage feature such as dry stone walls.
# Assessment results
The special quality most vulnerable to climate change is ‘Internationally important and locally distinctive wildlife and habitats’. Changes to rainfall patterns, with wetter winters and drier summers, as well as extremes of drought and flooding are the key factors likely to affect habitats and species in the PDNP. The current poor condition of many features has contributed to them being rated as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ in terms of overall vulnerability to climate change.
A number of other special qualities are highly vulnerable to climate change. These are ‘Beautiful views created by contrasting landscapes and dramatic geology’, ‘Undeveloped places of tranquillity and dark night skies within reach of millions’, ‘Landscapes that tell a story of thousands of years of people, farming and industry’, and ‘Vital benefits for millions of people that flow beyond the landscape boundary’. The special qualities, ‘Characteristic settlements with strong communities and traditions’ and ‘An inspiring space for escape, adventure, discovery and quiet reflection’ are moderately vulnerable to climate change.
Of the 61 sets of special quality features assessed, 8 have a ‘very high’ vulnerability rating, 36 have a ‘high’ vulnerability rating, 16 have a ‘moderate’ vulnerability rating, and 1 has a ‘low’ vulnerability rating. Ratings are calculated by considering the various direct and indirect effects climate change will have on the feature, the capacity for a feature to adapt to these impacts and the current condition of the feature.
The vulnerability assessment focuses on identifying and prioritising adaptation measures, which are the physical or behavioural changes needed to help the PDNP adapt to our changing climate. We have not considered climate change mitigation measures, which are those actions that contribute to reducing climate change, as those measures are considered elsewhere.
Recommendations have been made for each of the assessed features to help them become more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The assessment does not seek to prioritise, make commitments to or provide mechanisms for implementing these recommendations. Many of the recommendations will only be implemented if appropriate incentives and, where necessary, changes to the regulatory framework are introduced.
A key overarching recommendation is therefore to seek to influence national land-use policy and ensure local delivery mechanisms are in place in order to contribute to the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, nature recovery networks, and recommendations arising from the 2019 Landscapes Review of National Parks and AONBs.
# Next steps
The vulnerability assessment’s findings will enable the Authority and its partners to direct energy and resources to those climate change adaptations that will have the greatest positive impact on the special qualities.
Due to the broad nature of the vulnerability assessment, implementation of the recommendations will be via a number of mechanisms. It should be noted that although the Authority has commissioned the CCVA, it is for the benefit and use of everyone who wishes to care for and protect the National Park.
As there are a variety of delivery mechanisms it is not envisaged that all the recommendations will be implemented at the same time. Furthermore, in some cases it will be a question of taking opportunities to deliver the recommendations when they present themselves, for example, potential new sources of funding. Inevitably some of the recommendations are contentious. For example, some impact directly on the work of land managers, e.g. recommendations for appropriate grazing levels and suggestions to reduce burning. It will take time to change culture and working practices, so some recommendations will need to be supported by communication and engagement programmes.
Using the evidence base provided by the assessment will be critical in undertaking our future influencing and regulatory roles.