Restored ecosystems are rich in nature, providing homes for a wide range of plants and animals. But – as well as supporting nature which enriches our lives – ecosystems also do other valuable things for human society. For example, restored forests and peatlands capture carbon from the atmosphere and help slow down climate change. Restored river catchments with associated riverine woodlands, can help reduce flooding of human settlements downstream. More fully restored ecosystems contain intricate food webs with multiple complex interactions among animals and plants. These webs of linkages help make such ecosystems better able to recover from extreme events like fires, storms or droughts. Our monitoring of ecosystem services, through our Predator Project and Catchment Restoration Project, helps us measure how projects like Cairngorms Connect can provide such valuable “ecosystem services” for human society.
Image (above): Pine marten (Martes martes) foraging in pine woodland, Glenfeshie, Scotland. Pine martens are one of several species of mammalian and avian predators being studied as part of the Cairngorms Connect Predator Project. This project measures how predators interact with each other and their prey, as native species gradually recover in the area.
Predators have been returning to the Cairngorms Connect area over the last few decades. There are now 11 species of regularly breeding raptor, including golden eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos), white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), peregrine (Falco Peregrinus), and merlin (Falco columbarius). Mammal predators include red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and badgers (Meles meles), and pine marten (Martes martes) populations have increased significantly. Within the same area there are prey species that are threatened, such as capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus).
The Cairngorms Connect Predator Project is looking into this changing community of predators. For more information on this project, click here.
Image (above): Insh marshes, within the Cairngorms Connect Partnership area.
We are carrying out a wide range of nature-based interventions within the catchments of various rivers that feed into the Spey. These include floodplain restoration along the Spey, tree-planting and wide-scale natural tree regeneration, reduced grazing, and peatland restoration.
This is an excellent opportunity to monitor how we can enhance natural processes to reduce flood risks, bearing in mind the many other benefits from habitat restoration and carbon storage that come about from this.
Using drone surveys and in-situ water loggers, we’re monitoring how our catchment restoration work is mitigating flood risk and improving water quality.