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Glaciated Uplands & Economic Activity

Glacial landscapes provide opportunities for different economic activities, and management strategies can be used to reduce land use conflicts.

There are many economic activities within glaciated areas including farming, forestry, quarrying and tourism.  The very nature of glaciated environments poses both challenges to development and offers opportunities too.  The steep terrain makes many types of farming difficult for example, whilst also offering spectacular scenery for tourists to enjoy.

Farming is difficult in glacial areas such as the Highlands in Scotland and the Lake District of England because;

  1. The relief is very steep making it difficult to use machinery
  2. The soils are often thin on mountain sides, non-existent in areas scoured by ice or waterlogged in upland mountain areas.  This makes arable farming difficult.
  3. Temperatures are lower at higher altitudes, and the mountainous landscape creates lots of shaded areas that receive less sunlight

This has meant that many of the farming areas of the UK use Extensive pastoral farming.  This is where animals, commonly sheep, are kept for their meat, milk or hides at low densities. This is the case in the Lake District where the Herdwick sheep is common. Some highland areas also farm cattle and deer for venison meat. In the lower valley bottoms there may be some crop farming.

Easedale Farming
Farming in Easedale

Forestry is another land use in the UK’s glaciated areas.  Many upland areas have been planted with pine (coniferous) trees which grow relatively quickly and can be harvested often.    This gives land owners and farmers a viable source of money other than farming.  About 2 million hectares of coniferous forests exist in the UK, and the Forestry Commission manage a lot of that.  Much of the UK’s forestry is said to be sustainable as felled areas are replanted, and our forest cover has actually increased in recent decades. The wood can be used in construction, furniture and increasingly as a fuel for people.

The final natural resource extracted from upland glaciated areas is stone and mineral wealth via quarrying.  A quarry is basically an area of land where we dig out rock that we can then use.  The Lake District has a very long history of mining and quarrying, over a wide area, for minerals such as lead, copper, graphite, and coal. Slate mining and quarrying still take place, providing building material for dwellings.  Slate is used extensively as a roofing material. Granite from the highlands of Scotland is also quarried, and can be used as pavement materials or even for kitchen work surfaces.

Elterwater Quarry
Elterwater Quarry in Langdale, the Lake District

Tourism is the final major land use in these areas.  Glaciated mountain areas are a big draw for tourists because of the spectacular landscapes, the opportunities for walking, camping, and climbing amongst other activities. The case study exploring the impact of tourism is from the Lake District, later in this chapter.

Conflict in upland areas
All of the land uses described above plus some others mean that we sometimes get conflict in our upland glaciated environments.  This is because some of the activities are incompatible with one another and pose issues between development and conservation.  In many cases we have to decide if we allow a development to take place so people can exploit the landscape and make money from it, or whether we protect and conserve the area for people to use in the future.  For example, farmers have to allow tourists onto their land to use footpaths and to explore the area.  These tourists spend money in the local community and eventually the farmers will see some of that money so this is a positive development.  However, Tourists can cause footpath erosion and can scare farm animals, thus damaging the land and making conservation difficult.  This shows the conflict and tension that can exist in these areas. Cumbria has been earmarked for fracking, which could damage the natural environment, and has already had many conflicts over wind turbines.  There have already been protests about extensions being proposed to the Kirkby Moor wind farm for example.

Managing the needs of development and conservation

Glacial landscapes can be managed to try to meet the needs of all of the interest groups involved.   It is important that compromises are made to try and keep everyone happy/.  Already within the UK we try to;

  1. Use education to reduce the impact of activities, appropriate signs and information for people can limit the impact of tourism or keep people out of dangerous areas where the military train.
  2. Use public consultation – here if controversial schemes are planned like fracking or wind farms big public meetings take place where all interested parties can put their points across before decisions take place
  3. Restrict activities – in some areas we limit what people can do, and during which times of the year
  4. Have national bodies to manage areas – such as the National Park Authorities which come up with plans to manage developments and their impacts in National Parks.

NEXT TOPIC -Lake District and Tourism



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