Land cover changes

In 2000 the Cairngorms National Park was surveyed using satellite imagery (Fuller et al). A land cover map was produced showing the following habitat types;

Forest and woodland; 792km² (12%)
Enclosed farmland; 352km² (5.4%)
Grassland and bracken; 767km² (12%)
Mountain, heath and bog; 4,563km² (70%)
Built-up land; 10

km² (0.1%)
Standing water; 31km² (0.5%)

Total; 6,515km² (100%)

Between 1947 and 1988 the key changes in land cover have been;
Estimated increases

  • 80% increase in the area of rough grassland, due mainly to heather moorland becoming grass-dominant. Mire or bog drainage for tree planting also contributed to the expansion of rough grassland.
  • Plantation forest expanded by around 90%, mainly on heather moorland and mire, and to a lesser extent on rough grassland. A 48% increase in ditch length reflects mire drainage for afforestation.
  • An apparent increase in bracken should be viewed with caution, as it may partly reflect improved clarity of photography, and therefore improved detectability, between the 1940s and 1980s.
  • Wet ground increased slightly and encroached on a variety of habitats.
  • Scattered trees may have increased as a result of woodland thinning, degeneration or regeneration.
  • Built land and transport corridor increased in extent, as did bare ground.

Estimated decreases

  • Blanket mire was reduced by around 15%, through drainage for forestry (and thereby converted to heather moorland or rough grassland) and tree planting.
  • Heather moorland was reduced by 11%, through conversion to rough grassland and afforestation.
  • Managed grassland was reduced by 22%, mainly due to its conversion to arable. The length of hedgerow, a feature of livestock and mixed farming systems, was reduced by 72%.
  • Semi-natural coniferous and broadleaved woodland were both reduced. Typically, they would have been replaced by conifer plantation forest.

This information is taken from the book The Nature of the Cairngorms edited by Philip Shaw and Des Thompson (SNH, 2006).

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