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The landscape teams will be working on the following activities in this stage:  • Establish a multi-stakeholder platform Following stakeholder mapping, the Landscape team will aim to establish a multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) • Scoping presentation The Landscape team organizes a multi-Stakeholder workshop to define key elements and scope of program • Case Clinic (as needed) The Lab curates a group of advisors to tackle challenges faced by the Landscape team over a 90min session, if relevant.  • Form a partner group  The MSP agree on a group of key partners to develop the program. Working groups are structured around each component • Program development Partners prepare activity matrix to present key program components • Concept note submitted The designated organization submit a final concept note to a targeted fund (GCF, LDNF)
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The Flow Country, Scotland

Landscape Vision

The Flow Country lies within the Counties of Caithness and Sutherland in the northern Highlands of Scotland. The Flow Country will be considered as a landscape/catchment scale instrument that may be replicated within a national enabling system to achieve land use contributions to the Scottish net zero 2045 target.

The landscape provides a range of ecosystem services. The extensive blanket bog stores over 400 million tonnes of carbon (Chapman S ‘Flows to the Future Economic Impact Assessment Report’, The James Hutton Institute) which equates to double the carbon sequestered by all forests and woodlands in the UK combined. It also provides a source of freshwater, with salmon rivers supporting populations of freshwater pearl mussels.

Landscape description

The Flow Country represents the most complete and extensive example of an intact and natural blanket bog ecosystem globally covering over 400,000 ha. The landscape is highly varied, from wide levels or gently sloping grounds with small bog pools (dubh lochs) dominated by sphagnum moss hummocks and hollows, to geologically more diverse areas associated with some distinct upland areas. The Flow Country is host to a range of specialist plants and birds and is designated under national and international conservation legislation.

The landscape is sparsely settled, with a very low population density. Land ownership is mainly private, with conservation NGOs owning some of the key areas of restored peatland. In addition to the natural heritage, parts of the peatlands contain many sites and areas of archaeological and historic significance (Scheduled Monuments), as well as thousands of sites of regional and local significance that are more widely spread across the area. The place names of the Flow Country Landscape were coined largely by speakers of two languages which dominated this region for centuries - Gaelic and Old Norse.

The Flow Country takes its name from old Norse Floi meaning wet and both languages are important in interpreting the landscape. Crofting, a land tenure system unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is commonly applied in the Flow Country Landscape. A croft is a small agricultural unit that provides multiple social and environmental benefits. Large areas of the Flow Country Landscape are common grazings, owned by landowners, but with much of the management undertaken and protected collectively by the crofting tenants. Alongside the traditional land use industries, are a large number of energy developments in and around the landscape.

These include a mix of onshore wind developments, increasing amounts of offshore renewable developments, and a large number of people employed in the decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear power complex which sits on the north coast. Scrabster Harbour acts as a base for offshore oil and gas, tourism, and is a large whitefish port and market. Wick Harbour is also the operations and maintenance base for BOWL, Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm. A large section of the North Coast 500 tourist



Contact organisation


Local landscape lead

NatureScot on behalf of The Flow Country Partnership and coordinating with the Flow Country World Heritage Steering Group

Main partners


The Flow Country Partnership represented by NatureScot 
Flow Country World Heritage Steering Group 
The Highlands Council  
Environmental Research Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands 
Scottish Forestry 
Natural Capital Unit of the Scottish Government within the Scottish Environment Ministry 
Highlands and Islands Enterprise 
NatureScot Green Finance 
Finance institution TBC
Wetlands International 

Steering Group - NatureScot, The Highlands Council, RSPB, ERI and CNSRP.

Total area (ha)

ca 400,000 ha

Overall goal

The overall goal of the Flow Country initiative was defined in the stakeholder workshop in Nov 2020 as to achieve:  A multi-use landscape where healthy and restored peatlands support globally significant biodiversity and climate protection; and a lively and prosperous region with high quality jobs. In order to deliver those goals, the objective of this project will be to prepare an outline investment strategy for the Flow Country Landscape in Scotland that serves as a model for landscape scale peatland restoration and which helps to achieve Scotland’s ambitions for net zero carbon emissions by 2045.  This will aim to scale a co-created program that supports synergies between climate, biodiversity and community benefits. Specifically it will examine ways to finance and operationalise the landscape vision around the three areas of landscape carbon, marketing the Flow Country brand and developing green and circular businesses.

Expected impacts

(To be added shortly)


Key threats to the Flow Country include inappropriate land conversion (e.g. historical drainage and afforestation), management ( e.g. high deer densities), development on and around peatlands and changing climate patterns (e.g. increases frequency of droughts, storms and wildfires) .

These all have the potential to disrupt the peatland’s ability to sequester and store carbon, or worse, increase direct emission of carbon through degradation of the peatland. They can also negatively impact biodiversity attributes associated with the Flow Country peatlands and rivers. Climate change may result in less suitable climatic conditions for bog growth. Both increased rainfall and increased temperature are predicted for Scotland, with most of the additional rainfall anticipated as coming over the winter.

These changes are likely to result in bogs drying out over the summer months as a result of the higher temperatures and associated higher evapo-transpiration rates. If conditions do become sub-optimal for bog growth (in particular Sphagnum mosses) then increasing levels of erosion through oxidation, physical removal of particulate peat and increased release of heavy metals, organic compounds and nutrients into watercourses can be expected.

The release of huge quantities of carbon stored in the peat along with other greenhouse gas emissions would further accelerate climatic warming.  20% of Scotland’s carbon emissions currently come from peatlands, predominantly from damaged ones. Ensuring peatland is in good condition reduces the dangers of erosion and carbon loss from the system.

A particular priority is reducing any artificial drainage to help mitigate the predicted increase in summer drying and to reduce winter run-off. It will also be important to reduce areas of bare peat so as to reduce the likelihood of erosion. These threats are exacerbated by uncertainties around future management funding within the Scottish Rural Development Programme, the need for economic recovery from Covid-19, and the fragmented nature of funding for peatland restoration.  Scotland’s uniquely concentrated pattern of rural land ownership presents a further challenge to ensuring benefits are distributed fairly.

Much of the Flow Country Landscape, particularly to the north and west, have faced significant depopulation over the last decades. Forecasts suggest a population decrease of 21% in Caithness and 12% in Sutherland over the next twenty years (from 2016 numbers). While this reduces pressure on nature, it also reduces the ability to pay for and manage nature based solutions.

Landscape approach

  • Ecosystem restoration landscape. 
  • Green economy landscape.


Timber extraction (both commercial and timber removed as part of ecosystem restoration);  agricultural goods, recreation and sporting, tourism.

Related Sector

Nature based solutions investing in integrated and collaborative action in agriculture, forestry, peatland restoration, sporting estates, water and biodiversity

Global brands present

(Will be added shortly)

Lead institution


50-100 M USD

Current sources of funding

Scottish Rural Development Programme; Peatland Action; National Lottery Heritage Fund- Heritage Horizons (potential); NatureScot (Facilitating investment in natural capital projects).  Potential: carbon; nuclear decommissioning; developer contributions from built development

Expected sources of funding

(To be defined)

Proposed priority programs or sectors

  • Peatland restoration based on adjustment of Peatland Code
  • Native woodland plantations in riparian areas
  • River restoration for salmon
  • Collaborative management of natural regeneration from conifer plantations
  • MeyGen tidal stream array in the Pentland Firth Inner Sound > potential power purchase agreements with data centre 
  • Hydrogen production with renewable energy
  • Joint tourism promotion through building brand and partnering with local producers, North Coast 500


edited on 17th March 2022, 09:03 by Deesha Chandra
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Deesha Chandra 2 months ago

Status label added: Landscape Vision

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Deesha Chandra 2 months ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone.

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Deesha Chandra 2 months ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone.

Reply 0