Uplands and moorlands

Short-eared Owl by Edmund Fellowes
Abernethy by Chris Wernham
Red Grouse by John Harding

‘Uplands’ cover around 50% of Scotland’s land area, as well as significant parts of the other nations of the UK. It is not unexpected therefore that BTO Scotland has strong research interests in birds of the high mountains, moorlands and marginal uplands (including the interfaces with other habitats e.g. woodland/forestry and agricultural land). Most upland habitats have probably been substantially altered by humans over time: for example, by ancient deforestation; reafforestation; grazing by livestock and deer; drainage; or burning for heather management.  These areas have led to some difficult conservation management challenges historically (e.g. afforestation of the Flow Country back in the 1980s) and these management challenges continue today. For example, the targets within the current Scottish Forestry Strategy to increase forest cover, understanding and managing the role that uplands can play in delivering ecosystem services (e.g. carbon sequestration and water management) and the likely implications of climate change and future changes in grazing pressure as a result of Common Agricultural Policy reform, all represent management challenges that require an evidence base on which to base policy decisions and forward predictions of the effects on biodiversity.

Recent and current research at BTO Scotland is addressing the implications of moorland and blanket bog management and forestry edge management for bird populations. We are also particularly interested in ways of enhancing monitoring coverage of the Scottish uplands, and the development of appropriate upland and moorland survey methods. We have particular interest in a number of species of the uplands and marginal uplands, including Whinchats, Short-eared Owls, Peregrines and Ptarmigan.

BTO Scotland science in this area cuts across several of the BTO research themes, including monitoring, climate change and multi-scale habitats.

Staff contact: John Calladine.