UK landscape-scale restoration projects share in $30m international funding

Extensive habitat restoration projects in the Scottish Highlands and mid-Wales are among eight across Europe to benefit from new philanthropic funding.

Speyside - image: Graeme Churchard (CC BY 2.0)
Speyside - image: Graeme Churchard (CC BY 2.0)

Based at the University of Cambridge, the Endangered Landscapes Programme (ELP) was officially launched last Thursday when the eight projects were announced by Professor Sir John Lawton, author of the government's Making Space for Nature report and chair of the ELP selection panel.

He said: "We need to stop thinking about protected areas as isolated units in the landscape – we need to approach conservation at a landscape-scale if we are really going to make a difference."

Initially for six years, the programme is funded by Arcadia, a charitable fund backed by TetraPak heir Lisbet Rausing and her husband Professor Peter Baldwin.

The Cairngorms Connect project covers 60,000 hectares of contiguous land in the river Spey catchment within Cairngorms National Park, emcompassing floodplains, Scots pine forest, birch, bog and riparian woodland, lakes and sub-alpine heaths.

"The scale, connectedness and value of this area now presents the best opportunity in Britain to restore natural ecosystem processes at the landscape scale, building on large, though damaged, habitat remnants," ELP said.

Led by RSPB Scotland, this long-term project "is being delivered over a span of 200 years", it added.

Initial work will include reducing deer damage across the entire area, restoring woodlands including removing non-native conifers from nearly 7,000ha of forest and restructuring of over 1,700ha of Scots pine plantation.

The work will benefit local people through direct employment, contracting local services, creating apprenticeships and enhancing ecosystem services for local communities, ELP said.

The Welsh project, Summit To Sea, will restore a continuous, nature-rich area covering 10,000ha of land and 284km2 of sea, creating ecological corridors from the Cambrian Mountains of mid-Wales to the Dyfi estuary and into Cardigan Bay.

These will allow populations of native species including pine martens, horseshoe bats and lobsters to recover and colonise new areas, while absent species such as the beaver "will be considered for reintroduction".

Led by Rewilding Britain and Woodland Trust Wales (Coed Cadw), the project will also support local enterprises in developing low-impact tourism and recreation opportunities as well as continuous-cover forestry, harvesting of natural products, and value-added meat production and fishing.

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