Using scenarios to explore UK upland futures
Upland landscapes have been the subject of policy debates for decades. Managed under livestock-farming systems that would be uneconomic without heavy government subsidies, they are also highly valued for their biodiversity, physical beauty and recreational importance (Condliffe; Crowle and McCormack; Curry; Swanwick, all this volume). Uplands around the world have experienced significant and often rapid socio-economic change in recent years. In the EU in particular, uplands are facing an uncertain future owing to changes in national, European and international policy. For example, reforms to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have ‘de-coupled’ subsidies from agricultural production, with perceived uncertain consequences for farmers as well as for land management and the rural environment. Significant changes in land-use practices will be required in many upland catchments if countries are to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. The Kyoto Protocol is a potential driver that has only recently been recognised as an opportunity by policy-makers and land managers owing to the market possibilities it may create for carbon stored in soils through agricultural management (Worrall and Evans, this volume). If a link between water colour and land management practices is proved in future, water companies may require those managing their land for grouse and sheep to make significant changes to their practices. A number of conservation organisations are interested in ‘re-wilding’ dry heath and blanket bog habitats that are currently managed for grouse and sheep, significantly reducing management inputs. The ecological consequences of such a policy are uncertain under future climate change, possibly leading to scrub and forest encroachment into marginal blanket bog habitats. In the UK, Natural England are increasingly requiring managers of blanket bog Sites of Special Scientific Interest to reduce levels of managed burning, and this may have uncertain consequences for ecology (Crowle and McCormack, this volume; Stewart et al., 2005; Yallop et al., this volume) and for the livelihood of those who depend on blanket bog environments (Reed et al., 2005). In short, policies are being implemented in the context of ongoing socio-economic (e.g. demographic) and environ-
mental (e.g. climate) change. Decision-makers are therefore keen to understand how potential future changes may affect them, and how they can best adapt to maintain upland goods and services.