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Whisky firm Johnnie Walker joins RSPB Scotland to save Cairngorms peatland


By Lorna Thompson

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RSPB Scotland is beginning urgent restoration work on 88 hectares of degraded peatland in the Cairngorms, with support from whisky brand Johnnie Walker.

The work will result in a total area of 160 hectares of the Cairngorm plateau being conserved – the equivalent of around 224 football pitches – protecting biodiversity, water quality and carbon storage.

The An Lurg site forms part of the water basin of the River Spey, which provides the water for many distilleries, including Cardhu, the Speyside home of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky. Restoring biodiversity upstream is expected to improve water quality downstream.

The plans were announced during a visit this week by Mairi McAllan, Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, to RSPB Scotland’s Abernethy Nature Reserve in the Cairngorms National Park.

Despite covering only three per cent of the world’s surface, peatlands store 30 per cent of the world’s carbon and are vital to the health and wellbeing of the whole planet.

The vast An Lurg North peatland area, which is part of the Abernethy reserve high in the Cairngorm plateau, is severely degraded among some of the highest priority areas for peatland restoration in Scotland.

(From left) Uwe Stoneman, senior site manager at RSPB Scotland, Mairi McAllan, Minister for Environment, Biodiversity & Land Reform, and Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer at Diageo, at the launch of a peatland restoration project at RSPB Scotland Abernethy Nature Reserve in the Cairngorms.
(From left) Uwe Stoneman, senior site manager at RSPB Scotland, Mairi McAllan, Minister for Environment, Biodiversity & Land Reform, and Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer at Diageo, at the launch of a peatland restoration project at RSPB Scotland Abernethy Nature Reserve in the Cairngorms.

The An Lurg area has already undergone preparatory works supported by Peatland ACTION, a NatureScot initiative funded by the Scottish Government.

Investment from Johnnie Walker will allow vital work to be carried out to continue the restoration and conservation.

Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer for Johnnie Walker’s parent company, Diageo, said: "This project is not just about saving and preserving peatland; it is about helping tackle climate change and about making a positive impact on the biodiversity this beautiful landscape provides for wildlife.

"The area is also part of the water catchment for the River Spey, the greatest whisky river in the world, and preserving the peatland will enhance and protect water quality in the future."

The nature reserve is part of Cairngorms Connect, the UK’s biggest habitat restoration project. Cairngorms Connect is a partnership of neighbouring land managers, committed to a 200-year vision to enhance habitats, species and ecological processes across a vast area of the Cairngorms National Park.

Daisy Whytock, a Peatland ACTION project officer from Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: "It is fantastic to see so many peatland restoration projects happening in the national park and across Scotland. It is vital that peatland restorers, including landowners, contractors, and professional bodies, work closely together to develop and refine the restoration techniques that result in resilient peaty ecosystems able to withstand the effects of the changing climate."

The work at An Lurg will begin later this summer. Features such as coir logs – fibre logs used to stabilise banks – and dams will be used to slow the speed of water flow and stimulate vegetation in key areas.


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