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Celebrating the iconic landscapes of Scotland

The Celtic rainforest of the west coast, the pinewoods of the Cairngorms and the machair of Harris and Tiree – these are just three of the unique and varied habitats that make the Scottish landscape so special.

March 11 2015

Plantlife's reserve at Munsary is part of the Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands IPA. ©Michael Scott/Plantlife

Plantlife's reserve at Munsary is part of the Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands IPA. ©Michael Scott/Plantlife

They are also three of Scotland’s Important Plant Areas (IPAs), botanically rich spaces, internationally recognised, due to the quantity, quality and diversity of the species growing there.

To highlight the significance of these places, and as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations, Plantlife Scotland has published a new report, documenting what it is that makes each of Scotland’s 47 IPAs so important, the challenges they face, and what can be done to conserve and protect them.

Scotland’s IPAs currently cover almost 10% of Scotland, and incorporate many rare and species-rich sites.

  • The Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands IPA contains 4% of the world’s blanket bog habitat and is the largest intact peat mass in the UK and Europe.
  • Clearburn Loch has the largest population of holy grass in southern Scotland; while Beinn Bheigier is the only place to find Lindenberg’s featherwort moss.
  • A typical woodland ravine in Argyll may contain as many as 200 species, which is comparable to the richest tropical rainforests.
  • In a 1 metre square patch of typical machair, up to 45 species can be found.

Dr Deborah Long, Head of Plantlife Scotland says: “Our new report on Scotland’s Important Plant Areas details the 47 very best places in Scotland for our wild flowers, mosses, lichens and liverworts, and include many of our most iconic landscapes. Put simply, they are the best places to focus our conservation resources, as they are the best places for our wild flora.”

But, despite this, Scottish IPAs are under threat. Over grazing, burning and invasive species such as Rhododendron x superponticum are particular causes for concern and, through this report, Plantlife hopes to highlight this fact and rally the nation’s support.

Dr Deborah Long says: “Plants and fungi, and the places they live in Scotland, continue to face ongoing pressures of changing land management, climate change and lack of resources. Our Important Plant Areas offer solutions to some of these issues. Plantlife has been working with land managers along the west coast, in the Cairngorms and with volunteers at Trapain Law to support these plant communities. The work not only illustrates how amazing these places are but also their importance to local communities, as well as to Scotland as a whole.”

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