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New post set to protect rare plants in Cairngorms National Park

9th April 2010

A project officer that will help secure the future survival of four of the rarest and most endangered plants in the Cairngorms National Park has been appointed.

Thanks to a multi-agency approach to funding for the three year, £155,000 Cairngorms Rare Plants Project, twinflower (Linnaea borealis), intermediate wintergreen (Pyrola media), lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia), and small cow-wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum) will be the focus of a targeted conservation approach utilising innovative management techniques supported by high quality academic research.

Andy Scobie has been appointed as the Cairngorms Rare Plants Officer and will be based at the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) offices at Achantoul near Aviemore. He has a background in ecology and studied for his PhD at the University of Aberdeen where he conducted research on rare plants, including twinflower – one of the four target species.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) successfully applied to the Esmée Fairburn Foundation for £80,540 towards the total project costs with a further £45,000 coming from SNH’s Species Action Framework and the remaining £30,000 from the CNPA. The University of Aberdeen will also provide an in-kind contribution towards employing and line managing the project officer.

Andy will implement a programme of practical site management, set up translocations and establish new populations of the endangered plants at carefully selected sites. He said: “This project is a really exciting opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of these endangered plants and to work alongside land managers and experts in the field, to develop and deliver  targeted conservation action on the ground.”

“Surveys will be conducted at a wide range of sites throughout the Cairngorms National Park and the most suitable site specific approaches will be employed to enhance the survival prospects of the target species. Land managers will be consulted at each step of the process and the longevity of this work will be secured by incorporating actions into long-term management plans.”

Andy will also develop a database of all known target species sites within the Cairngorms National Park and conduct searches in areas of suitable habitat. The assistance of volunteers and local recorders will be fundamental to the success of this, and members of the public will be encouraged to get involved by reporting sightings of the target species.

Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) officer at the CNPA, Stephen Corcoran said: “This work should help prevent the extinction of both twinflower and small cow-wheat in the UK and significantly enhance the prospects of the other target species and the wider biodiversity of the managed sites. Part of the project will also involve raising awareness at the sites being targeted with the general public and recreational users.”

Robin Payne, a plants specialist with SNH, said: “We are finding out extraordinary things about intermediate wintergreen now and this work in the Cairngorms combines some of the science we have been doing but is also aimed at giving advice for forestry and land managers.

“This is exciting work and we are pleased to be involved with a project which is focusing specifically on rare flowering plants and is also about achieving something on the ground.”

In three years it is hoped there will be a significant improvement in the conservation status of these rare plants. Targets set out in the Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, the Cairngorms National Park Plan and SNH’s Species Action Framework will be achieved thanks to the project.

To find out more about rare plants and other aspects of the biodiversity of the Cairngorms National Park – take part in the Big BioBuzz Day in Grantown-on-Spey, Kingussie and Ballater on 22 May 2010. Log on to Big BioBuzz Day for further details.