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Cairngorms Connect

Cairngorms Connect is the UK’s biggest habitat restoration project – a partnership of neighbouring land managers working collaboratively to enhance habitats, species and ecological processes across an area of over 600 square kilometres.


Photograph providing an aerial view of an area in the Cairngorms, showing a valley with trees and vegetation on the valleysides (©

Cairngorms Connect is a Partnership with an ambitious 200-year vision, which is restoring habitats and natural processes across an area of 60,000 hectares (ha).

This is the biggest habitat restoration project in the UK currently delivering across its whole extent, bringing together a partnership of landowners with the shared ambition to enhance habitats, species, and ecological processes in the heart of the Cairngorms. The project sits entirely within the Cairngorms National Park and comprises around 13% of the Park area.

Over centuries, the needs of agriculture, commercial forestry and field-sports defined the patterns of land management here.

The main aim of the Partnership is to connect up management across four ownership boundaries for ecological restoration of habitats delivering greater connectivity and ecological coherence. It will restore the Caledonian pine forest to its natural limit, reinstate drained wetlands, naturalise rivers and revive huge tracts of peatland, improving the area for wildlife and the people who live and work there.


The project

Photograph providing an aerial view of the Cairngorms, showing a lake with trees and hills in the background, and a meandering river feeding into the lake in the foreground (©

Operating at landscape scale, it works with committed people, from scientists to deerstalkers and farmers to foresters, to deliver a healthier, natural landscape that supports strong, economically vibrant local communities.

Partners are working together to create a wilder landscape including population control of deer to allow forests to expand, naturalising rivers and restoring huge tracts of peatland.

The project will deliver significant outcomes as part of the Endangered Landscapes Programme, including:

  • Reducing deer damage across the entire 60,000 ha project area.
  • Restoring woodland habitats and processes, including removal of non-native conifers from nearly 7,000 ha of forest and naturalising of over 1,700 ha of Scots pine plantation.
  • Restoring key peatland habitats – 400 ha of blanket bog and 900 ha of bog woodland.
  • Restoring natural hydrological processes over 1,000 ha of floodplain.
  • Significantly contributing to and enhancing the livelihoods and well-being of local people, through direct employment, contracting local services, creating apprenticeships and enhancing ecosystem services for local communities.


Environmental and societal benefits

Cairngorms Connect allows for nature to adapt in its own way to the impacts of climate change.

It will enable natural capital to increase and ecological processes to recover, ecosystem services to increase and populations of key species such as eagles, wildcats, capercaillie, black grouse, and the rare twinflower to grow, as well as supporting sustainable economies and improving human wellbeing.

The enhanced ecosystem resilience will provide direct adaptation benefits to people, including alleviation of flood risk. The area’s natural carbon storage will be significantly enhanced through extensive restoration of woodland and peatland.


Project partners

  • NatureScot
  • RSPB Scotland
  • Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Wildland Limited


Further information


The Inter-Agency Climate Change Group

This project is one of a series of projects which showcase some of the best examples of Nature-based Solutions from across the four countries of the UK. The information has been compiled by the UK Inter-Agency Climate Change Group (IACCG), and is being hosted on the JNCC website on behalf of the group.




Nature-based Solutions: IACCG case studies

Published: .

To find out more about this project, or the Inter-Agency Climate Change Group, please get in touch.

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