International Importance

STATEMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE OF THE CAIRNGORMS AREA

“Internationally and scientifically the Scottish Highlands stand out as one of the world’s unique areas. This is recognised by the fact that in the biogeographical provinces of the world (adopted by the World Conservation Strategy of 1980), the Scottish Highlands form a province of their own amongst 13 others in Europe and separated from the rest of the British Islands. This extraordinary position of the Scottish Highlands emphasizes their uniqueness from global points of view. Within the Scottish Highlands it is scientifically recognized that the Cairngorms are the most representative area. Therefore, Scotland and Great Britain have a responsibility towards the world to preserve this, from so many points of view, remarkable area. Obviously, the responsibility towards future generations of Britons is even greater.”

AT

THE LURCHER’S GULLY PUBLIC INQUIRY, CAIRNGORMS, 1981

BY

 THE LATE PROFESSOR KAI CURRY-LINDAHL
Senior Ecological Advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme, Special Consultant to UNESCO for the Man and the Biosphere Programme, Visiting Professor of Conservation at the University of California, and global leading expert on protected areas.

Wildlife Value

The Cairngorms are home to many scarce plants, insects, birds and mammals with arctic or northern distribution such as twinflower, capercaillie, dotterel, and mountain hare. They have provided a breeding ground for uncommon wading birds and also for birds of prey that are under pressure, such as peregrine falcon, golden eagle and hen harrier. Overall, they contain 1153 species that are nationally important at the UK level, of which a remarkable 223 species are largely or entirely confined to the Cairngorms. This is reflected the range, number and extent of protective designations as seen in the table below.


Designation

SACs

SPAs

Ramsar Sites

NNRs

SSSIs

NSAs

Number

24

16

10

7

65

2


 
Table 1 Number of Protective Designations in the Cairngorms Area
 

Scientific Value

Scientifically, the Cairngorms have had a international importance in “knowledge creation” through research as a major emergent landuse. Scots PineTheir value for this is enhanced by various factors apart from their scale and inherent diversity. Firstly, the higher montane areas have a high degree of naturalness, providing one of the few areas of the UK in which “natural” ecosystem processes largely uninfluenced by human impacts can be studied. This same lack of human impacts also makes them useful in applied research, such as on the impact of acid rain on soils, where factors which need to be studied are uncomplicated by other human impacts. Finally, the sensitivity of the montane habitats makes them useful barometers of environmental change. As a result, research in them has thus provided insights into subjects like population dynamics, the formation of glacial landforms, and the impacts of acid rain. These insights have had application in many other places and in the deepening of broader scientific knowledge.

And help us maintain the case for better management and appreciation of the Cairngorms.
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