Cairngorms Connect works at a landscape scale

Cairngorms Connect is the biggest habitat restoration project in Britain, encompassing 600sq.km. (230 sq. miles) of contiguous land – dedicated to wildlife.

From the floodplain of the River Spey, through huge and ancient forests, to some of the highest mountains in Britain, we are shoulder-to-shoulder; a powerful combination, put to work for nature, across a vast area.

Nature doesn’t recognise fences, or lines drawn on a map – eagles soar over hills, and wood ants hurry through forests. To them, the important boundaries are where opportunities improve or diminish, where survival gets easier, or more difficult. The strength of our partnership is in creating a seamless landscape for nature, resilient to the effects of climate change.

Cairngorms Connect partners are working together to control deer numbers to allow forests to expand; to naturalise rivers; to restore huge tracts of peatland, and give common messages to visitors. Working together means bigger projects. Combining our resources makes the money go further!

Cairngorms Connect provides the best opportunities for rare and spectacular wildlife

This is an amazing place for nature! The Cairngorms Connect habitats are home to an extraordinary diversity of wildlife. Over 5,000 species have been recorded here; around 20% are Nationally Rare or Scarce; some are recorded nowhere else in Britain.

Eagles, wildcats, pine martens, ospreys, black grouse, ptarmigan, otters, lapwings, tooth-fungi, shining-guest ants, sub-Alpine mosses, and many more species make their home here. In 2016, the Cairngorms Connect forests were home to half of the UK’s male capercaillie – the world’s largest grouse, and a species under serious threat in Britain. There are more patches of the rare and fascinating twinflower here, than anywhere else in the UK.

We have a vital role to help people experience and value these wild places, without also damaging or disturbing the very things that they have come to see.

Cairngorms Connect restores and promotes natural processes

Cairngorms Connect is committed to enhancing the “services” provided by a healthy environment rich in life. A joined-up and more natural landscape functions more effectively and better serves the needs of wildlife and people. As our forests expand and diversify they will clean our air and help regulate our climate. As our peatlands function more effectively, they will purify water and store huge amounts of carbon. Soil quality will improve and the flow of rain and snowmelt into naturally meandering river systems will slow and reduce downstream flood risk.

Initially, this involves significant interventions, such as drain blocking to raise water tables. There will also be an ongoing need to control grazing pressure by collaboratively managing deer populations. In the longer term, natural processes will take hold and dictate how this landscape evolves.

Cairngorms Connect embraces our responsibility to deliver these “ecosystem services” – contributing to flood regulation, climate regulation, breaking down waste, providing food, fuel and water, and contributing to the quality of life, culture and well-being for local people and visitors.

Cairngorms Connect works with committed people

Cairngorms Connect is not just a “talking shop.” We plan our management together, pool our information and experiences, and co-ordinate our research and monitoring work. We get things done.

If our vision is to be realised, it will require the time and expertise of many different people who share that vision. It will need active involvement from those who live and work here, and those who visit this spectacular place.

Working with committed people – from scientists to stalkers; from farmers to foresters, we want to inspire fresh thinking about how a healthier, natural landscape can build strong, economically vibrant local communities where - alongside new business models - sustainable agriculture, forestry and deer management still have an important role to play.

Cairngorms Connect aims to develop an international reputation for a pioneering, science-based approach to landscape-scale restoration, attracting and informing researchers and educators from around the world.

Cairngorms Connect believes that wild nature is good for people

As the Cairngorms Connect landscape becomes wilder, more visitors will be attracted to it: walkers, adventurers, photographers, wildlife watchers and hunters will all help support local businesses and provide new opportunities.

Wild landscapes can make us feel amazing; they soothe our soul and allow our imaginations to soar. They bring us fresh perspective and a close encounter with a wild animal can be transformative, etching a memory that lasts forever.

A secure future for the Cairngorms Connect area needs people to value and care for its wild places and wildlife. This is a place for local people, and those who visit from afar; for those who come to learn and even begin their careers; to be creative, have fun, get active, or to find a place of tranquility. This is an inspiring place for all of us – at any age.

Here, we can tell great stories, deliver clear messages, build understanding, and offer memorable experiences.

Milestones

The Cairngorms Connect vision for habitat restoration is unparalleled in its scope, scale and timeframe, in the UK. Our milestones over the next 200 years chart our plans to restore native woodlands to their natural limits, including high-altitude montane woodland; to restore peatlands, wetlands and rivers and to build support and understanding locally, nationally and internationally.

2020

  • Cairngorms Connect is well established as a pioneering example of what can be achieved by working in partnership at a landscape scale.
  • There is clear evidence of early achievements: young woodlands are spreading across open moorlands; peatlands and bogs show the signs of repair and early recovery, and rivers move more freely across flood plains.
  • Local communities and visitors are engaged with the project and the benefits it will bring. Information about the project is widely available, on-site, on-line and locally.

2065

  • The effects of woodland regeneration, floodplain and peatland restoration is evident. With the exception of on-going herbivore control, all of the principal interventions are complete.
  • Natural characteristics are mainly being achieved by natural processes.
  • The emphasis of the project is now on monitoring, research and promotion, publicity and demonstration.

2216

  • Cairngorms Connect’s woodland habitats are the best examples in NW Europe of an oceanic boreal forest.
  • The forest has extended well towards its natural altitudinal limit, including montane woodland - achieved principally by natural regeneration in the presence of grazing animals.
  • Woodlands – including some plantations - have a high degree of naturalness, with structural variety and high deadwood content.
  • Wetlands have water tables at near-natural levels. Features of more-natural floodplains and river systems are well established.
  • Peatlands have recovered and there are no longer extensive areas of ‘hagging’ - the blanket bog is actively building.
  • The vast area covered by the partnership is internationally recognised as a success in landscape–scale restoration.
  • Its value for rare and diverse wildlife, spectacular landscapes, sustainable recreation, and for delivering a wealth of well-understood ecosystem services is appreciated by many of those who live near, work in, and visit the Cairngorms Connect partnership area.
  • For those willing to take a sustainable approach to agriculture, silviculture and deer management, there are opportunities to make a modest living from the land – through small-scale, low intensity farming and forestry enterprises.
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