Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Climate change adaptation on Dartmoor National Park (Dartmoor, United Kingdom)

The Climate Challenge

Dartmoor National Park is an upland located in the South West of England offering numerous ecosystem services. Large parts of the area are covered by moors with a granite-dominated geology and a peat substrate.  Recent climate trends have meant an increase in the average daily temperature, milder yet wetter winters and hotter and dryer summers.  These climate pressures, exacerbated by human activities such as overgrazing and fertiliser application, threaten the region with peat degradation and erosion. In addition, the accompanying loss of ecosystem services threatens food provision, the regulation of water quality and flow, genetic biodiversity and cultural-recreational services. 


The Adaptation Response

The UK Government mandated the Dartmoor National Park Authority to develop an adaptation strategy in 2011 identifying impacts and potential policy measures. This adaptation strategy was not explicitly implemented, but instead translated into the Management Plan 2014-2019, which aims to, inter-alia, establish various actor roles, documentation and monitoring; improve water and carbon storage; introduce more sustainable farming to benefit ecosystems; stimulate and protect priority species; and develop conservation-sensitive tourism.

Two additional initiatives were started by non-governmental actors. The Mires on the Moor project was set up as a pilot by regional private water company South West Water with the aim of improving water supply from Dartmoor through better managing blanket peat bogs. Dartmoor Farming Futures is a bottom-up project set up to better manage Dartmoor’s distinctive ecosystem through the implementation localized agro-environmental schemes, such as better management of vegetation to prevent wildfires and maintaining beneficial livestock farming.


The People and Institutions Involved

The Dartmoor National Park Authority was suggested as the primary authority responsible for adaptation in  Dartmoor National Park. The current responsibility around adaptation is however not that clear. The Mires and on the Moor project is not a public policy initiative, but rather initiated by drinking water company South West Water and the University of Exeter, taking place on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and (partly) used by local residents and farmers. Dartmoor Farming Futures was initiated by local farmers together with the Dartmoor Commoners Council, the Forest Commoners Council, the Haytor and Bagtor Commoners Council, and the DNPA, together with the Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England, RSPB, South West Water, and the Ministry of Defence.


The Outcome of Action

The Management Plan 2014-2019 includes some adaptation measures though not explicitly under a climate change heading. The Management Plan will be implemented and monitored, though it is not yet known exactly how and when, and whether evaluation outcomes will be used. The National Park Authority informed researchers that climate change adaptation is currently not one of their priorities, which may be a reflection of recently reduced funding and changing higher-level political priorities.

A first preliminary evaluation has been conducted in 2013, the Dartmoor Farming Futures programme was deemed to have successfully translated national and EU policies into a localised setting. The Mires on the Moor project entailed rewetting bog areas. The project received criticism for not indicating compensation sums and (partly) failing to engage local expertise and feedback. The project ends in 2015, and South West Water has decided not to fund any continuation of the project on Dartmoor.



Roos M. den Uyl <> & Duncan Russel <>


Relevant Links

Website: on Dartmoor Farming Futures:

Dartmoor National Park:

Mires on the Moor Project:


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


Photo: Creek on Dartmoor, near Merrivale (photo by Roos den Uyl)