Look Back at – Nature – Cairngorms Views

Nature

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Nature

The interaction between people and nature is central to addressing many of the challenges we face in the National Park and in society more generally. There is a need to find solutions to the climate emergency that have nature at their centre and the Cairngorms National Park should be a rural exemplar of this approach. This means addressing the big land use and ecological issues in the National Park over the next 25 years that will also continue to have significant positive effects for the next 200 years. 

The Nature section of this draft plan sets out the overall outcome we are seeking to achieve, alongside a series of long-term objectives for the National Park. These are supported by a detailed policy framework and a series of actions we plan to take over the next five years. 


The consultation on the draft Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan is now closed. You can still view the plan objectives below, or click here to download a pdf version.

Check out our latest news section for all the latest updates or email haveyoursay@cairngorms.co.uk if you have any queries or comments.

Squirrel running along the ground
  • Outcome: A carbon negative and biodiversity rich National Park with better functioning, better connected and more resilient ecosystems.

  • Objective

    A1. Ensure the Cairngorms National Park reaches net zero by 2045 at the latest and contributes all it can to helping Scotland meet its net zero commitments.

  • Target / Indicator

    Annual progress report on net zero for the Cairngorms National Park.

  • The climate crisis is the single biggest challenge that we face and it is critical that the Cairngorms National Park – as the largest protected area in the UK – is an exemplar in achieving net zero, a leader in nature-based solutions and in helping Scotland as a whole achieve its targets. The Park Authority is undertaking carbon baseline work for the National Park at present.

    National policy context:

    Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan, 2018–2032
  • Objective

    A2. Increase the amount of woodland cover in the National Park to ensure bigger, more natural woodlands, expanding up to a natural treeline, providing connections across river catchments and around the central core of the mountains. The majority of this will be native woodland and will be allowed to regenerate naturally, without the need for planting or fencing.

  • Target / Indicator

    A minimum of 35,000 ha of new woodland cover created by 2045.

  • It is important to place this increase in context. When we achieve these ambitious targets, over three quarters (77%) of the Park will still be open habitat by 2045.

    The right tree in the right place increases the amount of carbon we can store, has biodiversity and landscape benefits, improves water quality and helps reduce the risk of flooding. This links directly to Scottish Government targets around net zero and biodiversity loss. There is also significant income potential for land managers from timber production and from the developing woodland carbon market (see objective A15). A move to more unfenced natural regeneration also has landscape, carbon and wildlife benefits.

    However, there will still be a need for some direct tree planting and fencing in the Park, especially in the early years where numbers of deer and other species are still above a level that allows for natural regeneration.

    National policy context:

    Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan, 2018–2032

Increase the area that is covered by forests and bogs.

Comment from the informal consultation
  • Objective

    A3. Restore and manage peatland within the National Park to reduce carbon emissions and improve biodiversity.

  • Target / Indicator

    A minimum of 35,000 ha peatland restored by 2045.

  • Stops the loss of carbon, benefits biodiversity, improves water quality and helps alleviate flooding. Links to Scottish Government net zero and biodiversity ambitions. The carbon market for peatland restoration is developing fast and can potentially help to deliver this objective (see objective A15). The National Park has around 90,000 ha of degraded peat and 15% of the bare peat in Scotland.

    National policy context:

    Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan, 2018–2032
  • Objective

    A4.  Reduce deer numbers across the National Park to enable woodland to expand, restored peatlands to recover, and wider biodiversity and landscape enhancement to take place.

  • Target / Indicator

    Average red deer densities on the open range are five to eight per km2 across the National Park by 2030.

    Sika and fallow deer (non-native species) will be contained within their current distribution in the National Park by 2030.

    Establish deer population in the woodlands of the National Park by 2025.

  • Average red deer densities on the open range are currently 11.5 per km2 across the National Park, but vary from four to 20 depending on location. To enable peatland and woodland work to proceed at the scale necessary to meet our targets, deer numbers will have to decrease in the National Park, with particular focus given to areas with high deer numbers. This is a complex picture and we will need to look at densities, occupancy and impacts on current and desired habitats, as well as impacts on estates and businesses.

    There is also a need to address roe, fallow and sika populations in the Park and to control woodland deer numbers.

    Both approaches are in line with findings of the Deer Working Group and Scottish Government’s response.

    National policy context:

    Deer Working Group – Scottish Government Response
stag roaring
  • Objective

    A5.  Reduce the intensity of game bird (grouse, pheasant, partridge) management within the National Park. Encourage lower density grouse shooting, as well as the adoption of best practice management techniques and sustainable pheasant and partridge shooting / releases.

  • Target / Indicator

    Average gamebird bags per unit area.

    Numbers of game birds released in the National Park.

  • The Grouse Moor Management Review (‘The Werrity Review’, 2020), and Scottish Government’s response to it, has indicated a move towards licensing grouse moors in the near future. This package of work will be the cornerstone of moorland management in the National Park.

    There are significant releases of non-native gamebirds in the National Park, but information is patchy. There is a need to get a better handle on the data around these releases, to look at the impacts on native wildlife and to ensure a better regulated system.

    National policy context:

    Grouse Moor Management – Scottish Government Response
  • Objective

    A6. Stop burning on deep peatlands (currently defined as greater than 50 cm depth) and licence burning on shallower peatlands to reduce carbon emissions and encourage natural regeneration. Reduce wildfire risk by ensuring wildfire action plans are in place.

  • Target / Indicator

    No muirburn on peatland soils of over 50 cm depth and burning on shallower peats regulated by licensing by 2023.

    Wildfire action plans cover the whole National Park by 2024.

  • Fires on deep peat can damage the peatland’s ability to store carbon and very intensive burning regimes on shallower peat soils reduce habitat diversity. Any muirburn in the National Park must be done in line with best practice.

    Wildfires release carbon, can damage or destroy sensitive and rare habitats, can kill species and pose a significant risk to people and property. We will look to have clear wildfire action plans in place by 2024 and agree a position on the role of prescription burning as part of these.

    National policy context:

    Grouse Moor Management – Scottish Government Response

Peatlands need to be protected for carbon storage.

Comment from the informal consultation
  • Objective

    A7.  Work with farms in the National Park to reduce their carbon footprint through improved management of grasslands and soil. Help join up habitats and ecosystems through increased woodland and scrub, restoring freshwater areas and supporting a greater variety of species. Agree carbon and biodiversity management plans with farmers in the National Park to help guide activities.

  • Target / Indicator

    Carbon and biodiversity plans are in place for farms across the National Park by 2028.

  • A significant area of the National Park is farmed and, to achieve our net zero and biodiversity targets, we need to prioritise activity that reduces farming’s carbon footprint, enhances species diversity and builds resilience through joining up habitats and ecosystems.

    Scottish Government has yet to set out its final approach to rural payments; however, it is committed to ‘the transition to a low carbon future, delivering a sustainable, productive and profitable agricultural sector.’

    There are also potential economic benefits to farmers through reduced input costs, for example using less fertiliser.

    National policy context:

    A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture Farmer-led Climate Change Groups Reports
  • Objective

    A8. Target rural payments to support sustainable food production, reduce carbon, increase and maintain the health of habitats and ecosystems, enhance biodiversity and help connect different habitats across the National Park. As part of this we will establish a Regional Land Use Partnership and Framework for the National Park which helps national and local government, communities, land owners and stakeholders work together to achieve net zero and find ways to optimise land use in a fair and inclusive way.

  • Target / Indicator

    Establish a Regional Land Use Partnership and Framework for the National Park by 2023.

  • Rural payments drive much of the farming activity in the Park. These payments are changing and can support farmers taking a coordinated approach to managing their land, delivering a range of public benefits (from carbon reduction to flood mitigation) in return for public support.

    As the agriculture support framework develops, consideration will be given to what support is best at a national level and what could be devolved to a regional approach. This ties in strongly with the developing Regional Land Use Partnership approach.

    National policy context:

    A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture Agricultural Transition in Scotland
hay bales in field
  • Objective

    A9. Restore and connect rivers to thriving wetlands and floodplains as part of a wider restoration of the National Park’s freshwater systems, helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.

  • Target / Indicator

    75% of river systems are restored by 2045.

  • Natural freshwater systems improve water quality, help protect against flooding and store excess water, as well as providing essential habitats for wildlife in their own right.

    National policy context:

    Water Framework Directive and River Basin Management Plans
  • Objective

    A10.  Connect habitats and ecosystems across all different types of land use in the National Park to create an ecological network, which will bring wider landscape, biodiversity and people benefits.

  • Target / Indicator

    Establish an ecological network across the National Park by 2025.

  • Projects that work at a wider landscape scale deliver benefits over large areas and require new ways of working between multiple land managers, owners, agencies and anyone else with an interest in land. It is essential that woodland, moorland, farmland and other land uses in the National Park are managed in collaboration with one another to restore nature.

    National policy context:

    Land use Strategy for Scotland, 2021 to 2026 The Environment Strategy for Scotland

Restore ecosystems to protect, regenerate and expand carbon sinks.

Comment from the informal consultation
  • Objective

    A11. Enhance ecosystems across the National Park by increasing the area of land managed principally for their restoration.

  • Target / Indicator

    At least 50% of the National Park to be managed for ecosystem restoration by 2045.

  • The natural environment of the Cairngorms National Park is internationally significant, much of it being protected through European designations. Restoring ecosystems in the National Park will improve the resilience of those areas and deliver greater public benefits in the long term. At present around 30% of the Park is being managed for ecosystem restoration.

    National policy context:

    Biodiversity Statement of Intent
    The Environment Strategy for Scotland
  • Objective

    A12.  Develop a more complete understanding of the National Park’s species, habitats and ecosystems, and help monitor progress over the long-term through a dedicated Cairngorms Nature Index.

  • Target / Indicator

    Develop and roll out the Cairngorms Nature Index by 2023.

  • A better understanding of species, habitats and ecosystems will allow for better, more targeted management of land within the National Park and will help deliver wider public benefits.

    National policy context:

    Biodiversity Statement of Intent Cairngorms Nature Index
red squirrel walking along branch
  • Objective

    A13.  Manage sites designated to increase the diversity of species present, improve habitats, store carbon and build resilience to climate change. These benefits will be delivered alongside current commitments to maintain and enhance designated features within the area. 

  • Target / Indicator

    Designated sites contribute to an ecological network and wider ecosystem restoration.

  • Our designated sites are intended to be the best examples of the rarest habitats and species in Scotland. As we face the twin challenges of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, their function and the way they are managed must also be focused on maximising the multiple benefits they can provide, including carbon storage and building resilience to climate change.

    National policy context:

    Biodiversity Statement of Intent Edinburgh Declaration on post 2020 biodiversity framework
  • Objective

    A14.  Protect vulnerable species and ensure they get back on a sustainable footing, less reliant on targeted action and recovering within a network of habitats. Where necessary, reinforce existing populations and reintroduce lost species as part of a suite of measures to restore biodiversity in the National Park. Ensure species and habitat management adapts to a changing climate.

  • Target / Indicator

    Species Recovery Curve.

  • The number, variety and distribution of species will shift with the changing climate and with the changing landscapes of the National Park, including increased woodlands and restored peatlands. This will mean that different species may thrive in the future and that tough choices about species currently seen in the National Park may have to be taken. There is also a need to ensure that species that have been persecuted in the past are allowed to breed in the National Park across their range.

    National policy context:

    Biodiversity Statement of Intent Edinburgh Declaration on post-2020 biodiversity framework National Species Reintroduction Forum

The land within a national park must be managed primarily for wildlife. Healthy ecosystems with the full complement of all our native flora and fauna in robust populations must be the priority.

Comment from the informal consultation
  • Objective

    A15.  Attract private green investment into the National Park to fund nature’s recovery and share the benefits between communities, landowners, workers and wider society. Private finance will be as important as public money in funding nature’s recovery given the scale of the climate and biodiversity challenges we face.

  • Target / Indicator

    The Cairngorms National Park attracts a minimum of £250m of green finance for carbon and biodiversity projects by 2045.

  • Private green investment in carbon storage and management across the National Park, as well as to support positive management of habitats and their associated natural assets, could transform the rural economy of the Cairngorms. This is a relatively new market and there is a need to ensure the framework is in place for long-term benefit to the area and its people.

    Private green investment (including the purchase of land) must deliver long-term benefits and these must be shared between communities, landowners, workers and wider society. It must also support a collective approach to managing the land, addressing a range of challenges alongside the climate emergency (a focus on carbon alone will not be sufficient to deliver multiple benefits).

    National policy context:

    Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan, 2018–2032
    Land Rights and Responsibility Statement
  • Objective

    A16.  Work with farmers, estates and other land-based businesses to protect, manage and restore habitats and ecosystems across the National Park. Use ‘nature-based solutions’ to support a diverse economy that will be an exemplar for rural economies across the UK.

  • Target / Indicator

    The number of land-based businesses using nature-based solutions increases.

  • Land-based businesses are a key part of the National Park and there is an opportunity to demonstrate how nature-based solutions can contribute to a thriving rural economy, whilst also delivering for nature and our climate.

    National policy context:

    A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture
    Farmer-led Climate Change Groups Reports
dragonfly sitting on a leaf
  • Objective

    A17.  Ensure a wider range of people are involved in, benefit from and support activities that protect and enhance nature and tackle climate change in the National Park.

  • Target / Indicator

    Conduct regular surveys on values and attitudes to nature restoration, land management and landscape change.

  • Without the involvement of a diverse range of people, the conservation and enhancement of nature in the National Park would not be possible. Tackling the climate emergency and nature crisis can only be done by taking people with us: local communities, workers in the rural economy, visitors and so on.

    National policy context:

    Biodiversity Statement of Intent

This engagement phase has finished, check out the responses

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