Cairngorms Connect announces successful start to 200-year-vision

More than 7,000 broadleaf seedlings have been successfully germinated, 526 hectares of peatland habitats restored, and invasive native conifers have been removed from over 1,000 hectares of forest by a partnership of neighbouring land managers with an ambitious 200-year vision to enhance habitats, species and ecological processes of contiguous land in the majestic Cairngorms National Park.

By Dawn Renton
Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 7:12 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 7:12 am
Transporting 3000 downy willow saplings (Pic: Mark Hamblin)
Transporting 3000 downy willow saplings (Pic: Mark Hamblin)

Unparalleled in its scope, scale and timeframe in the UK, Cairngorms Connect has plans to expand native woodland to double its current size, re-establish blanket bog and forest bogs, and restore natural processes to river floodplains.

The partnership is already seeing real benefits from the work carried out since the project was launched in 2018.

And now the Cairngorms Connect has published a report delving deep into the work carried in the first years of the partnership, which also highlights successful progress already made.

Regenerating scots pines poking through flowering heather in the Cairngorms National Park (Pic: James Shooter)

With community engagement at the heart of the partnership, local volunteers and communities are enjoying reaping the benefits of their hard work. The Progress Update Report informs that young native woodlands are spreading across open moorlands, peatlands and bogs are showing the signs of repair and early recovery, and a range of people are connecting to nature, enjoying a wilder landscape in the making.

The Cairngorms Connect Tree Nursery, located in the heart of RSPB Scotland Abernethy National Nature Reserve, is helping to protect the threatened communities of montane woodland and other missing tree species across the region.

Local volunteers have played a really important role, contributing over 400 hours and successfully germinated over 7,000 broadleaf seedlings, including species of dwarf and downy birch, aspen, alder, downy and eared willow.

Throughout the Cairngorms Connect area, over 1,089 hectares of Scots Pine plantation and 1,132 hectares of tree planting has been completed, with non-native conifers removed from 1,175 hectares.

Peatland restoration for Cairngorms Connect (Pic: James Shooter)

Restoring peatland habitats is another important aspect of Cairngorms Connect’s 200-year vision. Work is already well underway with management of red deer populations, re-wetting bogs, restoring water levels and re-profiling eroded peat channels being just some of the tasks the team has undertaken. With support from the Cairngorms National Park Authority Peatland Action team, over 526 hectares have already been completed.

Sydney Henderson, Cairngorms Connect Communications and Involvement Manager, said: “The Cairngorms is an amazing place for nature. The Cairngorms Connect habitats are home to over 5,000 species – 20% are Nationally Rare or Scarce and some are recorded nowhere else in Britain. We have a vital role to help people experience and value these wild places.

“We are delighted that our first progress update is so positive – and that is in part thanks to the wonderful communities who have volunteered their time to support us with our vital work .”

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The Cairngorms is home to a variety of wildlife.
Restructuring Scots pine plantations creates a more natural forest