As many of us know, there is more to soil than meets the eye – and indeed, the answer really does lie in the soil. The soils in the East Dartmoor area have been evolving for several thousand years. During the last Ice Age, this landscape was not glaciated, but tundra conditions prevailed and more recently, human influences, through land use changes have altered the soils. This is a perfect place to explore how soils vary across the landscape. With this in mind, soil scientist Rob Parkinson, has worked with Tristan Colaco (Natural England trainee) and Harry Barratt, (Environmental Science student), to produce a comprehensive guide to the soils around Haytor and Yarner Wood.
The leaflet highlights the fascinating variation in soils – from the damp peats and better-drained granite derived soils on the open moor near Haytor – to the wet, naturally compacted slate-derived gleyed soils in the valleys of Yarner Wood. Following the route around the different locations in the guide, you can now take a ‘guided tour’ to learn how this variation in soil types exerts an influence on local vegetation assemblages and land use.
In late March, Rob presented the leaflet to an audience of soils specialists, at a meeting of the SW England Soils Discussion Group, at Ebford National Nature Reserve near Stroud (organised by Gill Shaw, Natural England Soils Advisor). The leaflet was well received, as Natural England are keen to enhance visitor understanding of the importance of soils in controlling landscape diversity.
Natural England monitor soil physical, chemical and biological properties in order to build up a more detailed picture of soil health. A number of key National Nature Reserves across the country are being monitored, including Yarner Wood. Matthew Shepherd (Natural England) is leading on this work, and the results of the studies can be seen in this report – Taking the long view – An introduction to Natural England’s Long Term Monitoring Network 2009-2016
A baseline survey indicates that a square metre of topsoil contains well over 300,000 mesofauna individuals! Interestingly initial results indicate that fungal diversity and biomass has decreased at Yarner over the last six years. Reasons for this change are being investigated by Matthew and colleagues. Enjoy exploring the wonderful landscape of East Dartmoor, where you can see how soils are both influenced by, and influence the natural and cultural history of the area.
Written by Rob Parkinson
You can pick up a leaflet at the Yarner Wood Reservoir Bird Hide and from the leaflet rack outside the Natural England Yarner Wood office. This Saturday 6th July you can also pick up a leaflet and meet some of the authors of the soil guide at a special celebration event – Discover Dartmoor: Heritage and Wildlife Festival in Manaton.
To learn more about soils on our blog – follow this link