Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Peter Cairns

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Mark Hamblin

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

James Shooter

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

James Roddie/scotlandbigpicture.com

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

James Shooter

Scotland’s wild east-west corridor

Magnificent glens and montane woodland meet ancient pinewoods and meandering rivers in the central Highlands of Scotland.

Nestled within remote, mountainous terrain lies a landscape-scale partnership of landowners committed to reinvigorating the wildlife and communities of the region. It is an area where nature is bouncing back after many years of decline.

Already home to some of Scotland’s best examples of ancient Caledonian pinewood, a patchwork of woodland, peatland, scrub, sub-alpine grassland and wetland will be restored. Rivers will be given more space to flow naturally and interact with the land.

A 30-year vision driven by natural processes will transform the Affric Highlands into a wild refuge for many iconic species, enriching the local economy with nature-based initiatives that form more resilient ecosystems and communities. It is a partnership that will demonstrate the interdependence of nature, people and business.


Rewilding vision

For each rewilding area we developed an inspiring vision that shows our ambition for the next ten years. Together with our local partners we work to make this vision a reality.

What are we doing here?

Recovery of a natural landscape

In the Affric Highlands rewilding area Rewilding Europe is working with local partners to transform bare hillsides into forests once again, after centuries of felling and overgrazing by deer and sheep, and restore the ancient Caledonian pinewood. Natural corridors like rivers and mountain ridges will become more wooded. Wild forests and scrublands, connected by naturally regenerating tree cover, will be creating increasingly rich areas of biodiversity. Plantations will be selectively replaced with native forest.

Drained and damaged peatlands are being mapped and rewetted so they become carbon sinks once more, and provide a new source of wetland habitat. A revived peatland landscape will also act as a vast store of water, holding it upstream and contributing to flood and drought mitigation.

Where there is no longer a local seed source, we are planting native trees to join up the fragments of forest that exist in these glens, aided by natural regeneration. Montane tree species are being grown from seed and returned to mountain areas where natural regeneration is not possible.

Natural grazing by carefully selected large herbivores is playing a crucial role in accelerating plant diversity and soil disturbance.

In the absence of large carnivores, we are influencing the deer population dynamics to allow vegetation to regenerate. Culling the deer also provides a steady supply of carrion to benefit myriad species throughout the seasons. By developing and using population modelling software, a more sophisticated and targeted approach is being formulated to assess potential deer impacts on an ecological scale.

Creating a coexistence corridor, for wildlife and people

From coast to coast, we are building more habitat connectivity into the landscape to facilitate wildlife movement and enable viable populations to interact, ensuring their long-term survival and health. Fences are being removed and a contiguous wild area is being established in collaboration with various landowners.

Educational initiatives are ongoing to promote human-wildlife coexistence, reduce areas of conflict, and highlight the benefits of a more ecologically rich landscape. Riparian woodlands and buffer zones are also being restored through the removal of aquatic barriers, natural regeneration and communication with stakeholders; encouraging coexistence with species such as beaver.

Promoting a nature-based economy

We are supporting new, innovative businesses and reinvigorating existing enterprises with wildlife tourism and sustainably harvested natural products presenting new opportunities for local business growth, in tune with the rhythms of nature. Establishment of the world’s first ‘Rewilding Centre’ next year at Dundreggan will inform and educate people about the growing rewilding movement in Scotland – and crucially – support 15 jobs initially.

Work is underway with a wide range of stakeholders and members of the local communities to create highly marketable products and services based on the land and increase local involvement in the long-term objectives of Affric Highlands. Building on the success of Trees for Life’s Skills for Rewilding training programme, further nature-based employment initiatives are being devised to construct a long-term structure for wildlife tourism in the region.

The Affric Highlands will be a pioneering area for selling nature-based carbon at a premium price from the rewilding work carried out. We are exploring the potential to sell accredited carbon with positive outcomes for communities as well as for nature, and develop so called ‘rewilding credits’ which will directly benefit private landowners and the community. We envisage that carbon capture will become a key feature of the area’s business model, with an increasing amount of carbon stored year-on-year from habitat restoration work.

“The essence of the nature, culture and communities of Scotland”

Alan McDonnell
Alan McDonnell
Programme Development Manager for Affric Highlands
How would you characterise your rewilding area?
Affric Highlands has been a vibrant landscape roamed by people and wildlife for thousands of years. From the depths of Loch Ness, over some of the highest mountains in Scotland, through long glens that cut all the way to our West coast, this is a really diverse landscape that still holds rich remnants of Caledonian pinewood, mountain woodland and peatland are home to iconic species like Golden eagles, black grouse and red deer. The people here are famed for their Highland hospitality and their knowledge of the land from centuries of hunting and fishing in these hills, it’s an ideal place to get to know the essence of the nature, culture and communities of Scotland.

What would you like to see achieved in your rewilding area in the next five years?
I very much hope to see the first steps being taken to restore forests and peatlands at scale in ways that people here will benefit from through new revenue streams for community businesses and landowners. Restoring eroded peatland and planting new woodlands, especially around our rivers will start to address climate change and create the conditions for species like salmon, otters and ospreys to start to thrive again. We are also hoping to bring the Scottish wildcat back to this landscape for the long term.

Image gallery

Partners

Trees for Life
In Affric Highlands, Rewilding Europe works with Trees for Life as the preferential partner. Both organisations signed a partnership agreement for the years ahead, including a strategy to recover the natural landscape, create a co-existence corridor and promote a nature-based economy.

Other local partners are:

Contact

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