Call to save fragile Scottish hill plants
People who enjoy walking in Scotland’s mountains are being urged to join a battle to save some of the country’s most rare and fragile plants.
Some of Scotland's most iconic habitats are found in the mountains. Caught between the warm and wet weather from the Atlantic and the cold dry weather from Europe, these mountains are home to a unique community of plants, the arctic-alpines.
But in some upland areas of Scotland, including the Cairngorms plateaux, many arctic alpine flora are under threat of extinction due to climate change and the impact of humans.
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Moss campion is an example of an alpine plant found in Scotland.[/caption]
Now Scottish conservationists are calling for outdoors fans and estate owners to help to safeguard these specialist plants for future generations.
As part of the campaign, conservation charity Plantlife Scotland has produced a guide
with advice on protecting the unique habitat.
Deborah Long, who is head of Plantlife Scotland, is reported as saying: “These high altitude Scottish specialist plants are part of our mountain heritage. As the climate changes and becomes less predictable, with drier spells and warmer winters, these plants have nowhere left to grow.”
Plantlife wants to encourage land management that creates and maintains a habitat where they can survive and thrive. Deborah says: “What they actually need most is a kind of benign neglect.”
Estate managers are being asked to end the traditional practice of burning off old growth on heather moors at the highest altitude and to limit grazing to “natural” levels.
What you can do as a walker
If you walk in Scotland’s mountains you are being advised to stick to marked pathways or well-trodden routes where possible. This is particularly important when passing through fragile habitats.
Helen Todd, at Ramblers Scotland, says: “Walking in Scotland’s world-famous upland landscapes is one of life’s great pleasures. It is hugely beneficial to our health and well-being, and walkers also contribute towards supporting rural economies.
“However, with Scottish access rights come responsibilities – and walkers are aware that we shouldn’t cause damage to the very countryside we enjoy. Requests to keep to paths when passing through fragile habitat should be followed.”