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Some forms of pollution have fallen dramatically since the 1980’s – for example sulphur dioxide from burning fossil fuels like coal has fallen by 60% since the mid 80’s. Sulphur dioxide and smoke from the burning of domestic coal produces a visible dark haze in the air, and reduction of this pollution has made the air look a lot cleaner. But, other pollutants in the air have remained high within this time, for example nitrogen oxides emission have increased, from the increase in the number of cars we own. Nitrogen oxides react with other chemicals in the air to produce ozone and nitrates, which are bad for human health as well as damage crops and natural communities. Climate change is bringing changes in weather patterns and increased temperature, and this will also impact on the communities of upland areas and will effect the abilities of these habitats to recovery following pollution.

The Recovery roof project looks at how fast and well our moorlands will recover from pollution and how this will compare with changes brought about by climate change.

The Peak District is historically one of the most polluted upland areas, mostly because of its proximity to large cities like Manchester and Sheffield. The experiment replicates future predicted changes in pollution levels and climate. We aim to see how the plants, animals and the soil react to less pollution and the changes in climate that we might see over the next few decades. Our hope is to identify any changes that come from climate change and falling levels of pollution. This is important for land managers, who have to decide when to act to preserve these habitats and when nothing can actually be done at a local scale. For example, climate change and many pollution issues need a national solution – we’re hoping that our project will help land managers focus on what they can do to save and improve these areas.  

The Recovery Roof experiment is one of the few manipulation experiments that compares the impact of climate change with pollution reduction (i.e. looks at multiple drivers of change within the ecosystem). At the site we have similar climate change manipulations as are carried out at Climoor. These are replicated drought and warming treatments using Automated roof technology. In addition to the climate change manipulations, there is also a pollution treatment. This operates using a drought roof (that covers the experimental plot whenever rain is detected by a tipping bucket rainfall sensor), unlike the drought treatment, the pollution treatment operates year-round. Underneath the automated rainfall exclusion roof there is also an irrigation system which sprays polluted rain onto the experimental plots, in equivalent volumes and rates as rain falls at the site. The polluted rain is a reconstituted solution, consisting of rainfall collected at the site from large collection surface, which is deionised to pure water and then mixed with a chemically reconstituted rainfall solution, with nitrogen and sulphur related pollutants added.