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Scientific spotlight shines on Flow Country

Monday 3 March 2014

Scientists from across the UK will converge in Caithness this week to discuss the latest findings in peatland research. Organised by North Highland College UHI’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI), the ‘Research in the Flow Country’ conference has attracted over sixty attendees.

The four-day event will highlight the latest research on the role of peatlands, including their part in regulating carbon and freshwater and their value to biodiversity. Covering about 4,000 Km2, the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland is believed to be the largest area of blanket bog in the world. Its diverse habitats support a wide range of globally significant wetland and moorland species. The conference, which takes place from Tuesday 4 to Friday 7 March in Thurso, will include a field visit to the RSPB reserve at Forsinard so delegates can see peatland restoration in action.

Organisers have also invited members of the local art community to take part in the event by displaying their latest works inspired by peatland environments.

‘Research in the Flow Country: Looking Forward’ is being supported by the University of Stirling, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB, the International Peat Society and Highlands and Island Enterprise. Organisers hope it will build on the success of the first Flow County conference which took place in 2012.

Rob Gibson MSP will open the conference. He said: “Across the planet, drought, wildfires, extensive flooding, higher waves and stronger winds show the urgency needed to tackle climate change. The Scottish Parliament has stretching targets for CO2 emission reductions and a consensus sees peatland rewetting as a key action. A £15 million Scottish Government budget commitment is aimed at securing the best scientific knowledge of emissions from our peatlands.

“I see the hub based at the ERI in Thurso as the epicentre of our efforts to control and reduce Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions as effectively as possible. This conference is a signal that we must engage effectively in this urgent work to mitigate climate change and improve our biodiversity in the Flow Country and far beyond.”

The ERI’s Dr Roxane Andersen has led the organisation of the event. She said:  “It is a very exciting time to be working in the Flow Country peatlands where a lot of new research projects have started over the last two years. This research is critical to understanding how management and climate change impact the key ecological functions of carbon sequestration, water regulation and biodiversity that the Flow Country peatland support. I am delighted to see that scientists and artists have responded to our invitation in great numbers and I look forward to a very interesting conference.”

ENDS

‘Research in the Flow Country: Looking Forward’ takes place from Tuesday 4 to Friday 7 March in Thurso and at the RSPB reserve at Forsinard.

To find out more about the conference visit: www.nhconline.net/nhconline/flow/programme.htm

The Environmental Research Institute is part of North Highland College, one of the academic partners in the University of the Highlands and Islands.