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Cairngorms Rare Plants and Wild Connections

Coral fungus (c) Dave Lamacraft

The second year of the four-year Rare Plants and Wild Connections Project saw the coming together of mountain enthusiasts and cutting-edge science for the first time to help save rare mountain ecosystems.

Utilising new DNA sequencing technology, Plantlife, volunteers and researchers at the James Hutton Institute were able to uncover the hidden biodiversity that lies beneath the surface of the Munros of the Cairngorms National Park; discovering fungi and what they can tell us about the changing mountain environment.

The project supported over 73 citizen scientists
in climbing a total of 57,129 metres (halfway to space, or 6.5 times the height of Everest) across 55 of 58 Munros within the national park.
Samples collected during the survey
produced 17,462 records of 2,748 fungal species, comparable to the total number of fungal species ever recorded in Cairngorms National Park.
Several species new to the UK,
and one species new to science were discovered, significantly increasing our knowledge of fungal diversity and distribution in alpine soils.
Thanks to the hard work of all involved,
an evidence-based foundation has been created, against which the effects of climate and environmental change can be monitored going forward. Our knowledge of the close connection between plants and fungi also means that the data gathered can be used to prioritise habitats for conservation and restoration.

At a lower altitude, Plantlife set about creating new roots for two rare wildflower species amongst Scotland’s pinewoods with the help of the local community. The first steps were taken in working to establish five new populations of Twinflower in the park to address challenges with habitat fragmentation, and monitor One-flowered Wintergreen to assess the feasibility of introducing the species to two new sites.

Soil Sampling Volunteer (c) Andrea Britton

The year also saw the launch of the Mob Grazing for Diversity Initiative, the first project of its kind in any national park in the UK working with farmers and volunteers to enable natural meadow regeneration through adaptations in grazing management. Alongside the Nature Friendly Farming Network, Pasture for Life and Cairngorms National Park Authority, Plantlife was able to deliver training events to support farmers on their first steps to increasing plant diversity.

  • Between April 2021 and March 2022, Plantlife’s Rare Plants and Wild Connections Project empowered over 250 people within the UK’s largest national park to take action for wild plants, including volunteers, land managers and members of the public.
  • The project facilitated over 500 volunteer hours focused on the conservation of rare plants, habitat restoration and monitoring.

The Rare Plants and Wild Connections project runs until March 2024, and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Cairngorms National Park Authority with support from NatureScot. Through this project, Plantlife is working with land managers, local communities, organisations and visitors to the national park to deliver the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan, an informal partnership of organisations and people with a commitment to the precious wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park.

Image credits: Header image - Dave Lamacraft, image 2 - Andrea Britton

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Recognising the importance of our ancient grasslands

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