The stunning and varied wildlife and landscapes found in the National Park attract people from around the world to visit, live and work.
The living ecosystems of the area also provide vital stocks of natural capital, from which flow benefits from nature such as water, timber, energy, food, recreation and enjoyment. Conserving and enhancing our natural heritage is the first aim of Scotland’s National Parks.
Species and habitats
The area also holds strategically important populations of species, such as Atlantic salmon, golden eagle and red squirrel; and habitats of high biodiversity value, like native oakwoods and peatlands, which contribute to a national ecological network. Wildlife species are an integral part of the natural environment and people’s connection with it.
The commercial conifer forests and native woodlands in the National Park are of national importance both in terms of timber production and their rich biodiversity. They also play an important role in mitigating climate change by storing an estimated 2,505,000 tonnes of carbon and slowing water flow, which can help reduce flooding and stabilise slopes prone to landslides.
Woodland cover is already extensive in some areas, such as the Trossachs and Cowal, but much less so in upland areas, such as Breadalbane. There are opportunities to increase the benefits of woodlands by creating more extensive and better connected forest and native woodland networks, whilst recognising the need for sensitive siting of new plantations.
The varied lochs, rivers, burns and peatlands not only contribute to the beauty and natural wealth of the region, but also provide drinking water, renewable energy production, livelihoods and recreational opportunities. In a rapidly changing climate the health of these ecosystems is essential. The restoration and enhancement of degraded waterbodies and peatlands, in order to aid their water and carbon storage natural functions, are highly important, as is their role as major sources of drinking water and hydro-electricity generation.
The coasts and narrow sea lochs of the National Park lie close to the mouth of the Firth of Clyde and are integral to the history and heritage of the region. Rich coastal and marine wildlife, combined with tranquil, secluded seascapes make this a popular area for low key marine tourism and a gateway area to the internationally renowned west coast and islands.
Woodlands – The National Park Authority’s priority will be supporting and encouraging land managers with advice and resources to expand and manage native woodland and restructure plantations. We will produce a Woodland Strategy highlighting the opportunities for native woodland expansion and management. Our key focus will be on areas with sparse woodland cover and the restoration of native upland woodland and scrub habitats, particularly along hillside burns, and also waterside woodlands on the banks of rivers, burns and lochs in the lowland areas of the Park.
Freshwater and Marine – Working with key partners such as SEPA and Marine Scotland, the National Park Authority’s priority and focus will be on supporting the restoration of naturally-functioning river and loch systems, particularly in and around the wilder parts of the Park. This will be done by taking a catchment-by-catchment approach to tackling diffuse pollution and improving water quality, flows and wetland habitat. We will work towards encouraging natural flood management solutions, as demonstrated by projects such as the Strathard Partnership, and highlight the problem of marine litter in Loch Long.
Whilst the National Park Authority’s main focus will first and foremost be on the wider health of ecosystems and habitats which support species, it will also support targeted work on key species whose conservation status is in decline or at risk, with a focus on:
Tackling and reducing the impacts of invasive non-native species such as Rhododendron, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, and Grey squirrel with a strategic, landscape-scale approach.
‘Flagship’ species that are gauges of natural health and representative of key, threatened habitats in the Park. These species help engage people with the natural environment and the benefits it brings. These include ‘flagship’ species targeted for action under Wildpark 2020, the National Park’s current biodiversity action plan: