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Protecting our peatlands

Munsary (c) Alistair Whyte

Our vast and vital Munsary Peatlands Reserve in Caithness has continued to thrive this year with the discovery of record numbers of one of the UK’s most threatened plants.

A significant rise in Marsh Saxifrage was seen on the 1,884 hectare reserve during 2021/22, with more than 1,000 of the bright yellow flowering plants counted. This is the highest number ever recorded at Munsary, which is home to one of only six populations of the species remaining in the whole of Scotland.

Our efforts to successfully protect the site’s extensive blanket bog have also continued. As well as carefully managing the deer population to prevent erosion of the peat’s sensitive surface, we also supported a bid to UNESCO to designate the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland – of which Munsary is part – as a World Heritage Site. The blanket bog found here is the best example of this habitat anywhere in the world due to its quality and extent, and will be given additional special protection in recognition of its international importance if UNESCO grants the status when a decision is made in 2024.

We are proud to manage such an important habitat, which is home to valuable populations of rare species while also storing huge amounts of carbon.

During the year, we carried out an in-depth review of current management of Munsary Peatlands before consulting extensively with a wide range of stakeholders to develop and publish a new plan for the reserve using funding from NatureScot.

This work has also been informed by comprehensive research taking place in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands, which is further increasing our understanding of the dynamics of the bog. The findings of this ongoing study are being used to finetune our management to protect the environment long into the future, while also helping us develop best practice techniques for threatened peatland habitats across the world.

Our thanks go to all of the volunteers who have supported our work, including the reserve advisory committee and our volunteer surveyors, as well as our partners NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, RSPB Scotland and University of the Highlands and Islands.

Image credits: Header image - Alistair Whyte

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Resurrecting ghost landscapes at Burnham Beeches

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