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Developing best practice track and road techniques for wetlands

Prof Joseph Holden (SoG), Dr Catherine Moody (SoG)

Project partner(s): CASE partners: Natural England (with support from Moorland Association, North Pennines AONB)

Contact email:

There are a range of tracks used on wetlands. These range from gravel tracks in road cuts (i.e. the peat is often dug out) through to plastic mesh tracks that are placed on the peat surface. The latter have been trialled on peatlands and granted temporary permission on a number of sites as a solution to access requirements by land owners.

A recent PhD project at the University of Leeds studied the impacts of mesh tracks on water tables and peat compression, mainly using an experimental track at Moor House National Nature Reserve (McKendrick-Smith, 2017). However, little is known about wider impacts (e.g. runoff accumulation) of both hard tracks and plastic mesh tracks on peatlands (Natural England, 2014) or long-term effects of mesh track use. Little is also known about whether removal of plastic tracks causes substantial damage.


This project will investigate:

i) how tracks of different designs influence flow accumulation and river flow from upland peatlands;

ii) understand impacts of removing tracks from peatlands on habitat & function (e.g. as mesh tracks are removed this may damage the peat and vegetation);

iii) research innovative methods of track removal to minimise damage.


The project would suit someone with an interest and experience in soils, hydrological processes and practical research. The successful student would spend time working in the field in upland environments. They would also work with Natural England and other partners to understand their needs and gain valuable skills in practice and policy development.


Natural England  (2013) The impacts of tracks on the integrity and hydrological function of blanket peat.

McKendrick-Smith, K (2017) The Impact of Tracks on Blanket Peat Ecohydrology. e-thesis abstract, University of Leeds.