In a recent discussion of research priorities for palaeoecology, it was suggested that palaeoecological data can be applied and used to inform nature conservation practice. The present study exemplifies this approach and was conducted on a degraded blanket mire in Yorkshire, UK, in collaboration with a field-based moorland restoration agency. High-resolution, multiproxy palaeoecological analyses on a peat core from Mossdale Moor reconstructed mid to late-Holocene vegetation changes. Humification, pollen, plant macrofossil and charcoal analyses carried out throughout the peat profile show marked changes in species composition and indicate their potential causes. Results suggest that human clearance in the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition may have initiated peat growth at Mossdale Moor, making this landscape ‘semi-natural’ in its origin. Further human-induced changes are identified at 1300 cal years BP, most likely clearance by fire, and between 20 and 0 cm depth where a substantial charcoal increase is interpreted as recent (<400 years) management practices using burning to encourage browse on the moor. The long-term ecological history of the moor, derived using palaeoecological techniques, will be used to inform conservation practice and to help set feasible targets for restoration and conservation at Mossdale Moor.