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This page is no longer updated. The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute joined forces with SCRI joined forces on 1 April 2011 to create The James Hutton Institute. Please visit the James Hutton Institute website.

Monday 20th May 2024

Integrated research on Upland Ecosystems

Introduction (3MB pdf leaflet)

The internationally important uplands of Scotland are home to some unique, yet fragile habitats. The fine balancing act of managing these wild places has been going on for centuries, but today they are coming under increasing threat from both climate change and pollution. To continue to successfully meet the needs of the local livelihoods that depend on these areas, whilst protecting our precious natural heritage, we require a greater understanding of how different upland habitats and water catchments will respond to changes in climate, pollution and land anagement.

For many years, parts of northern Europe suffered from the devastating effects of acid rain. Upland areas are particularly sensitive to the high levels of nitrogen still present in rain, snow and cloud. Our soils, waters and plants are all particularly vulnerable. In addition, the impact of pollution has been made potentially much worse by our rapidly changing climate, and again it is predicted that upland areas will suffer more. This obviously has implications for both our managed and wild landscapes.

To assist in the management and conservation of these areas, our research is considering the relative importance of pollution, climate change and management at sites ranging from the lowest moorland to the highest mountain peaks. We are integrating experimental data with our understanding of the workings of the wider upland environment, allowing us to develop and recommend appropriate management actions.

Current projects

  • The causes of change in mountain heaths (Culardoch)
    How do nitrogen pollution, climate, burning and grazing interact and shape montane ecosystems? In relation to pollution, we are particularly interested in where nitrogen goes and how it influences biodiversity once it enters the upland environment.
  • Understanding change in upland ecosystems (Mharcaidh)
    What implications do our studies have for the management and future of Scotland’s uplands? By developing our understanding of how the wider ecosystem functions, we can make recommendations to inform future policy on water and land management issues.


Research sites map

woodland invasion into moorlands pic

More on woodland invasion...

mountain health pic

More on mountain heaths...

upland ecosystem pic

More on upland ecosystems...