The Flow Country is one of our last wild places, stretching across Caithness and Sutherland in the far north of Scotland. And it’s a crucial spot in the battle against climate change – on the best and biggest peatland of its type in the world.
As the Peatland Partnership’s £10.6 million Flows to the Future Project draws to a close, we want to celebrate all that it’s achieved. Inappropriately planted forestry on deep peat had damaged this blanket bog over the decades, impeding the amazing capacity of peatland to capture carbon. But in the past five years, the project has cleared 837.4 hectares of non-native trees on deep peat, while helping neighbouring landowners receive funding for another 75,000 hectares.
Restoring peatland provides an important habitat for plants and wildlife, improves water quality, and mitigates flood risk. In Scotland, around 25% of the country is covered in peat soil. If all of the C02 from that peatland were released, it would be the equivalent of more than 120 years of Scotland’s emissions being produced at once.
As well as peatland restoration, the Flows to the Future project also had a strong community focus, with a huge amount of work going into education, visitor facilities, training and bolstering local business.
The project trained 270 volunteers; signposted five walking routes with four viewpoints which include information, seating and parking; constructed an amazing viewing tower; held almost 180 meetings; held over 200 school visits at the reserve or at schools; created a touring exhibition, seen by over 150,000 people, which travelled to 13 U.K. venues; and spent £4.3m with Caithness and Sutherland businesses.
Fortunately, as one significant project comes to a close, another picks up momentum. The Partnership is looking to build on the legacy of the Flows to the Future Project with a bid to recognise the Flow Country as the best peatland of its type in the world, and be declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. If successful, this will be Scotland’s only purely natural World Heritage Site and the only site in the world acknowledged solely for its peatland habitat.
For more information on Flows to the Future, see www.theflowcountry.org.uk.
The Peatlands Partnership includes Scottish Natural Heritage, Forest and Land Scotland, Scottish Forestry, The Highland Council, RSPB Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, The Highland Third Sector Interface, The Flow Country Rivers Trust, and The Environmental Research Institute.