Mountain research piques Cabinet Secretary’s interest

Published Friday, 3rd August 2018 in Research news

Professor Davy McCracen and Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform
Professor Davy McCracken with Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre

SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre upland research and demonstration farms, near Crianlarich, were recently the focus of a Ministerial visit.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform, spent a morning touring the farms with Professor Davy McCracken, Head of the Hill & Mountain Research Centre, and Prof Jamie Newbold, SRUC’s Academic Director. The Scottish Government funds a range of agricultural and environmental research and demonstration events at the farms through its Strategic Research Programme. The Cabinet Secretary was particularly keen to see and discuss what SRUC is doing to help inform biodiversity management in the Scottish uplands.

The 2,200-hectare farms rise from an altitude of 170 metres to over 1000m and the morning tour up the hill track ensured that she experienced the scale and diversity of the habitats present on the site. The discussions touched on topics such as the establishment and monitoring of water margins and wetlands in the lower part of the farms; the 100 ha of peatland restoration that SRUC conducted in association with Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Scottish National Heritage’s Peatland Action programme; the environmental pros and cons of the 200 ha of montane woodland that was established over 20 years ago; and the novel use of sensors coupled with a low frequency radio network to automatically collect a range of real-time time environmental data from across the farms.

The Cabinet Secretary was particularly taken by the challenges and lessons learned from the establishment of the montane woodland on the farms.

Prof McCracken said: “We have shown that simply removing grazing from livestock and wildlife like deer will not automatically result in woodland establishment or regeneration in these high hill environments. Such large-scale ‘rewilding’ of a Highland glen takes active management over a long period of time. We would not have achieved what we have without the continuous control of deer and replanting trees that failed to establish first time around.”

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