This is the first in a series of themed posts in which I set out a new policy framework for how we use land in the Highlands of Scotland.
The first ecosystem I want to highlight is our boglands, which have come into the frame recently because of their natural capacity to sequester carbon.
Ever since studying ecosystems back in the 90s I have celebrated Britain’s wetlands, which have suffered much through efforts to drain them, extract peat, cover vast areas in forestry and construct wind farms. It has been a case of “out of sight out of mind” as these places are windy, bleak, wet and inaccessible. At least, were inaccessible.
We reap what we sow. By interfering with these great natural sponges, locking up water as well as carbon, we end up flooding areas downstream. Those living beside lowland rivers get flooded, so the authorities begin to take notice.
In Kintyre our upland blanket bogs, which form much of the moorland landscape of the peninsula, have been subject to the following developmental sequence. Plantation forestry of predominantly sitka spruce took place around 30 years ago, necessitating roads. During the past few years these roads have been eagerly seized on by windfarm developers and now by landowners keen to cash in on woodland grant schemes to establish new woodlands (which seem to be at least 60%n sitka).
My point is that, whilst there are now some restrictions in place regarding planting/constructing in areas of deep peat, this is nowhere near enough.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has a peatland programme for the UK. It speaks of our international obligations: not surprising when you consider that the UK has about 13% of the world’s blanket bog – one of the world’s rarest habitats. The majority of this is in Scotland.
The restoration and maintenance of our bog is paramount (at least 50 per cent is in a poor condition): and this is why Peat Bogs are my number one.