Charlotte Millburn of the Cairngorms National Park Authority introduces ‘Cairngorms Nature’ – a partnership project between people and organisations that wish to safeguard and enhance the special landscapes and natural heritage of the area.
The Cairngorms National Park is one of the last wildernesses we have left in the UK. It is a place of sheer abundance having more high level mountain ground than anywhere else in Britain or Ireland, the largest Caledonian forest, some of the UK’s purest rivers and it also hosts 25 per cent of the UK’s threatened species.
The Cairngorms National Park is a place of tremendous biodiversity, but sadly even here biodiversity loss is taking place and immediate action is needed to halt the decline and we can all help.
Andy Ford is the Cairngorms Nature Manager at the Cairngorms National Park Authority and he is a man on a mission.
“The words National Park are not dished out lightly – they signify a country’s best bits of the landscape and are recognised the world over. I have worked in conservation for over 20 years, in protected areas in the UK and Africa and in my opinion the Cairngorms National Park ranks amongst the biggest and best. I’ve lived and worked here for almost 10 years and get to see first hand the unique nature in the Park, along with some of the challenges we face. Looking after the Park is not a job just for the rangers or land owners, every person who lives here or visits here has a part to play.
“The challenges to conservation and biodiversity that the Park faces are very real. In order to maintain this jewel of global significance we all need to come together to deliver biodiversity gain so that we can leave a rich legacy for future generations
“Cairngorms Nature is a partnership where people and organisations come together, with one thing in common – a desire to safeguard and enhance the outstanding nature in the Cairngorms National Park. Anyone can support Cairngorms Nature they just need a passion for the Park.”
It has been nearly two years since the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan was launched and real signs of progress are starting to become apparent. Over 800ha of native woodlands have been planted and more than 350ha of peatland restoration has taken place at 7 project sites across the Park. Some of the UK’s rarest species, such as twinflower and Scottish wildcat, have been targeted for innovative action and there are plans for re-naturalising extensive floodplains on the Dee and the Spey.
The Cairngorms is one of the best places in the UK to deliver landscape scale conservation and current Cairngorms Nature priorities include woodland expansion, wetland enhancement, action for capercaillie and getting people more involved.
There is an exciting scale of connected woodland expansion taking place from Abernethy, round the central Cairngorms to Mar Lodge and the early stages of a montane woodland project to restore one of the UK’s most impoverished habitats are being developed.
Work also started on the Cairngorms Capercaillie Framework in 2014. With around 80% of the UK’s capercaillie population in the Cairngorms, what happens here is critical to the species’ future survival and expansion. The first Phase of the Capercaillie Framework has been led by the CNPA, with the guidance of a strong team comprising RSPB, SNH, FCS, GWCT, SportScotland and Seafield Estate. The main purpose of the Capercaillie Framework is to better co-ordinate management for habitat, recreation and development to best effect for capercaillie conservation.
The framework will be targeting woodland expansion, recreation management in key locations and will be co-ordinating work to mitigate potential impacts from development. The next phase of the work will involve working directly with land managers and communities to take forward the recommendations of the report, developing specific proposals at key locations.
Communities in the National Park have identified that the landscapes and wildlife around them are fundamental to their quality of life and to the economy of the Park. Cairngorms Nature projects are creating opportunities for people to get involved in its management and contribute to looking after their natural heritage.
Involvement in Cairngorms Nature ranges from everyday actions such as walking the dog on a lead during the ground nesting bird breeding season, to hours of dedicated recording by individuals and local groups to provide data for large co-ordinated schemes such as the Big Garden Bird Watch and the Scottish Mink Initiative.
It is because of the cumulative effect of people getting involved in this way that we have seen over 18,000 new plant records along with new invertebrate, plant and lichen species found in the National Park, and a return to the uplands of the water vole which has seen all old territories filled and new ones being created in areas where no water voles have been seen for decades.
Cairngorms Nature will continue to find more and more ways people can get involved. We will be celebrating nature with our park-wide Cairngorms Nature Festival on the 16th and 17th May 2015. There will be events to suit all ages and abilities as well as volunteering opportunities and it will be a fantastic weekend to come and explore what makes the Cairngorms so special.