Funding of £1 million has been announced for peatland and river restoration in the River Forth catchment as part of a major EU project.

Over the next four years NatureScot, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the James Hutton Institute and the University of Stirling will work in partnership to restore habitats across the Forth catchment area in Scotland.

The award is part of the £18m EU MERLIN project coordinated by the University of Duisberg-Essen, which seeks to restore the functions of freshwater and peatland ecosystems across Europe to help tackle the twin crises of nature loss and climate change, and ensure a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The work in Scotland will include the restoration of several peat bogs and their vital carbon stores.  It will also restore connections between the Allan Water and its floodplain, to contribute to natural flood management and the restoration of valuable wetland habitats. The funding will also include long-term evaluation and monitoring of the restoration work.

Dr Iain Sime from NatureScot said: “As all eyes turn towards the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, this funding has never been so timely. We know that nature and climate change are intrinsically linked – and that we need to tackle them both together, or we tackle neither. If we are to achieve net zero in Scotland by 2045, we have to focus on solutions based in nature.

“Through restoring and enhancing the natural habitats along the Forth, this exciting partnership project will play an important role in helping us mitigate and adapt to climate change, reduce carbon emissions and reverse nature loss.  This project will also provide us with important lessons to rapidly upscale the most valuable solutions in time to meet our net zero and biodiversity targets.”

UKCEH lead Dr Amy Pickard said: “Ecological restoration should be seen as an investment in our natural capital on which communities and business depend, such as restoring river floodplains to reduce downstream flood risks in our towns and cities or storing carbon in peatlands to offset society’s emissions. At UKCEH we aim to evaluate the success of these goals.”

The Scottish restoration work will contribute to international sharing of good practice to promote the use of nature-based solutions across Europe. Dr. Kirsty Blackstock, who co-leads the transformation work package for the James Hutton Institute, said: “Our task is to help navigate any challenges and find solutions through bringing together diverse industries and communities. MERLIN hopes that working with nature becomes business as usual for all concerned.”

Dr Peter Hunter, University of Stirling lead, said: “This project will invest in nature-based solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises by restoring peatlands and rivers throughout Europe.  Through the use of innovative  ‘digital twins’ such as the Forth-ERA platform, led through Scotland’s International Environment Centre at the University of Stirling, we will explore how we can develop more effective methods for measuring the benefits of such interventions.”

Contact: media@nature.scot

Valentine Willmann - Scotland Europa - November 3, 2021