Climate Change

The Cairngorms National Park is arguably the most important area for nature conservation in Britain, and ranks amongst the best in Europe. It is home to the most extensive area of arctic-alpine habitat in Britain and to 25 per cent of Britain's threatened birds, animals and plants.

The mountainous area is famed for its landscape, native forests and pristine rivers and wildlife. Nearly 40 per cent of the Park is set aside for conservation purposes through local, national and European designations. Conservation of the environment is of vital importance, yet its habitats are amongst the most vulnerable to climate change in the UK.

Climate change is a very complicated and dynamic process and we do not fully understand the impacts it will have on our world or vital ecosystem process that we will depend on.

Overall, climate change is expected to have a negative impact on the plants, animals and habitats of the Cairngorms National Park. We could see the marked changes in the numbers and distribution of plants and animals as early as 2010-2020. Read the Climate Change and Scottish Agriculture leaflet here.

A temperature rise of 1 C would necessitate a northwards migration of 250-400km, or an uphill movement of 200-275m, for an animal or plant to stay in the same temperature as before. All other factors being equal, organisms living in Arctic-alpine habitat above 600m would have to move to an altitude of over 800m to experience a similar climate. It is estimated that a 1 C increase may reduce the area of alpine/subalpine habitat by about 90 per cent across the whole of Scotland.

Within the Cairngorms National Park the habitats that show the greatest sensitivity to climate change include:

  • montane heath - one of the most sensitive of all the habitats;
  • upland hay meadow;
  • Caledonian pine woodland;
  • peat bogs.

The plants, insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians that live in these habitats will be affected most and, in some cases, their future will depend on how people respond to climate change.