Flow Country World Heritage bid advances after visit from climate change experts
The Flow Country has taken another step towards achieving Unesco World Heritage status following a visit and assessment by an international panel of climate change experts.
The team from James Cook University in Australia has provided an update on the current risks to the globally significant blanket bog which covers much of Caithness and Sutherland and stores around 400 million tonnes of carbon, more than all of the UK’s forests and woodlands combined.
Their assessment, using the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI), will strengthen the case for making the site the first expanse of peatland on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Scott Heron, Associate Professor of Physics at James Cook University College of Science and Engineering and lead developer of the index, said: “The CVI is a systematic and rapid assessment tool developed to assess the impacts of climate change on World Heritage properties.
“For the first time, we have applied part of the process to review climate risks for a nomination, hosting a CVI workshop in conjunction with the Flow Country Partnership to help identify likely climate impacts over the next 30 years. .”
With financial support from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a meeting in Helmsdale enabled Professor Heron and his team to apply the CVI concept to assess the impacts of climate change on eight key values and processes of importance in the Flow Country .
Dr Steven Andrews, Flow Country Partnership World Heritage Project Coordinator, said: “This visit has been extremely important for the future of Flow Country. With the help of Professor Heron and his colleagues, we are getting a head start in assessing the future climate impact on this vitally important landscape, through a process that has been limited in the past to use in natural World Heritage properties already inscribed around the world.
“Results from the initial workshop confirmed that while the Flow Country was in good shape overall, some changes have occurred and there is cause for concern about the effects of recent climate trends. We now have a better idea how, over time, changes in temperature and precipitation can damage areas of the Flow Country, especially if they increase the risk of wildfires.
“On a more positive note, it was pointed out that the Flow Country bog is a very resilient ecosystem if maintained appropriately. Our hope is that by achieving Unesco World Heritage Site status, we can do more to protect this vital area – and the culture and livelihoods it supports – for future generations.
If successful, the Flow Country will become Scotland’s only mainland World Heritage property listed for purely natural criteria, and only the fourth (for natural criteria) in the UK.
The offer, which includes a detailed nomination file and a management plan, will be submitted to Unesco by the British government at the end of 2022. After an inspection of the site, the result will be decided in mid-2024.
Unesco – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of exceptional value to the world. ‘humanity.