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The Flows declared latest National Nature Reserve

Peatland of Caithness and Sutherland will join other national natural treasures like St Kilda and Beinn Eighe as one of UKs Nature Reserve when it is launched this week.

The site of 11,373 hectares, is part of the single largest expanse of blanket bog in the world and is internationally recognised for its habitat quality and breeding bird populations. Other features of importance include wet heath, open waters, otter and many species of waders, waterfowl and birds of prey.

The new reserve is about 30 miles north of Helmsdale and extends across the peatlands into west Caithness and primarily comprises land within the former Forsinard and Dorrery Estates.

The national and international importance of The Flows National Nature Reserve is reflected in the extensive designations which include Ramsar, Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation status. Furthermore, 73 per cent of the new NNR is designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The new reserve will be managed by the RSPB who have a comprehensive management plan in place which has been approved by Scottish Natural Heritage. The plan includes deer management, the demonstration of peatland restoration techniques and effective management of grazing levels and muirburn.

The chief executive of SNH, Ian Jardine, said: “The Flows NNR is an important addition to our series of national nature reserves. It adds to the diversity of other NNRs that can be found throughout Scotland and the facilities at Forsinard help the 5000 people visiting it each year to experience and understand a unique and fascinating habitat which is of international importance. It also makes a significant contribution to the local economy and we anticipate designation as a NNR will also make the area even more attractive as a place to visit.

“The area also offers an ideal opportunity for long-term ecological research on blanket bog . We know that peatlands have a very important role to play in climate change as they are massive carbon stores. This gives this very ancient landscape a very modern significance.”

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