An industry-leading biodiversity enhancement project is set to transform Scotland’s railway, seeing the £329k pilot scheme enhance the natural habitats and ecology surrounding the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct.
The committed funding from Network Rail will be utilised by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), in what is considered to be the most ambitious biodiversity enhancement project ever to take place on Scotland's Railway. This project will span the course of two years, helping to compensate for the loss of biodiversity resulting from safety-critical tree and vegetation management works across Scotland’s rail network.
Simon Hodgson, chief executive of FLS, said:
“We are looking forward to working with Network Rail Scotland over the next two years to deliver this important pilot project within Scotland’s Atlantic Rainforest zone.
“This support from Network Rail is helping to supplement our national rainforest restoration programme, funding activity to protect and enhance threatened habitats. Work has already started on site, and we look forward to seeing biodiversity at Glenfinnan flourish into the future as a result.
“The longer-term objective is to restore ecosystem processes over 10 years which will support full habitat recovery and ongoing resilience. Thanks to these initial interventions funded by Network Rail, as well as ongoing management and maintenance undertaken by us, we are on track to achieve that goal.”
The works will be conducted in Scotland’s endangered Atlantic rainforest zone, seeing the removal of non-native plant species, management of deer browsing, fencing improvement work, wet woodland enhancements and tree planting. These regenerative measures will secure the health of the 200 hectares area, restoring and expanding rainforest and peatland habitats.
With the first phase of works currently underway, the non-native plant species across the woodland and peatland habitats are being removed, cutting out the invasive species which threaten the native habitats.
The scheme will have transformative short-term effects, protecting the vulnerable and internationally important woodland, whereas the long-term benefits will see increased carbon storage and enhanced climate resiliency the supporting and futureproofing the unique habitats.
Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, said:
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Forestry and Land Scotland and contributing towards the vital work being carried out to protect and enhance Scotland’s unique natural environment.
“This project will allow us to balance the removal of trees and vegetation elsewhere on the railway on a scale that would not be possible by replanting purely within our own boundaries.
“Rail is already one of the greenest forms of transport and we are committed to working to reduce our industry’s impact on the environment through further electrification of our network and also by supporting innovative projects like this one.”
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