Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change was welcomed to The James Hutton Institute’s Glensaugh Research Station today (Wednesday 31 August 2011) to find out more about issues affecting moorland areas.
The visit was jointly arranged by The James Hutton Institute and the Moorland Forum and aimed to highlight the work being undertaken by the two bodies, as well as the practical measures the Research Station undertakes with regard to upland hill farm management.
Following an introduction to some of the key issues, the Minister was led on a tour of the Research Station by Farm Manager, Donald Barrie. Glensaugh has provided facilities for agricultural and land use research since 1943. Typical of many hill farms in upland Scotland, it comprises just over 1,000 hectares (ha) of which 865 ha is semi-natural/moorland communities, 88 ha permanent pasture and 60 ha improved pasture/arable.
Simon Thorp, Director of Scotland’s Moorland Forum led a discussion on the importance of attracting private investment to upland areas and well as ensuring an effective level of dialogue between different interests within upland communities. Local development plans that identify the needs and wishes of the upland management community as a whole as well as improved communication and coordination between Government Agencies and NGOs with local landowners, land managers and other community interests were identified as barriers to be overcome.
The Minister also heard of the need to manage peatland for effective carbon management. High carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are one of the key causes of climate change and Scottish soils, particularly peatlands are an important store of carbon. Peatlands should grow and accumulate carbon, however inappropriate management, such as drainage or over-grazing, can lead to carbon losses. Research at The James Hutton Institute aims to understand the impacts of both land use and climate change on peatlands, investigating the best options for restoring and managing the carbon sink function of our peatlands.
There was also interest in the agroforesty trial area which offers a range of benefits compared to conventional systems. Integrated livestock grazing and woodlands plots can not only add to the landscape quality of the countryside and its tourism value but the shelter from the trees can encourage better pasture growth, feeding, and animal welfare for livestock.
Simon Thorp, Director of Scotland’s Moorland Forum said, “The Moorland Forum brings together a range of expertise and offers a unique opportunity within Scotland to deliver dialogue and debate on upland issues. We welcome this opportunity to liaise with the Minister on the future of the uplands. The challenge is to bring people together to inspire solutions and working with The James Hutton Institute we can use science to help us deliver solutions.”
Professor Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of The James Hutton Institute said, “The James Hutton Institute is well placed to be a key driver in addressing the challenges land in Scotland faces today. Glensaugh is the ideal venue to demonstrate upland management and partnerships, such as today’s event with the Moorland Forum, are important to help deliver science into the policy agenda.”
Stewart Stevenson MSP said, “I’ve had a very interesting morning. There is nothing more valuable for a Minister than to get out on the ground, meet people involved in the science as well as those implementing environmental and land use policies and engage in discussion around the issues.”