Photography study reveals nature recovery

30 May 2024

A long-term photography study has revealed the scale of nature restoration at National Nature Reserves (NNRs) across the Highlands.

NatureScot has carried out repeat photography to illustrate the changes that have happened to the natural habitats at its NNRs over time.

This involves re-taking historical photos at the same location, and at the same time of year – in some cases dating back 70 years. 

A new Storymap launched today showcases the expansion of the Caledonian pine forests at Invereshie and Inshriach NNR, Beinn Eighe NNR and Dell Woods NNR; the spread of birch woodlands at Creag Meagaidh NNR and Creagellachie NNR; and the changes following peatland restoration at Ben Wyvis NNR.

The visual record supports recent data from NatureScot NNRs showing that:

  • Trees increased by around 25% at Invereshie and Inshriach NNR between 2017 and 2023 through natural regeneration, aided by deer management undertaken by Cairngorms Connect deer stalkers.
  • Woodland at Beinn Eighe NNR has increased by 41% since it was designated as the UK’s first NNR in 1951, through a combination of tree planting, natural regeneration and sustainable deer management.
  • More than 200 hectares of peatland has been restored on the mountainside at Ben Wyvis NNR as part of landscape-scale habitat restoration stretching from summit to sea.

Ian Sargent, NatureScot’s Nature Reserves Manager for Central Highland, said: “Our aim over the years has been to restore nature to allow it to function naturally with minimal intervention on our NNRs. In turn, these nature-rich areas provide many benefits, including increased biodiversity, carbon storage and resilience to climate change.

“Even when we are very familiar with an area, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate change, especially when it happens slowly. Repeat photography allows us a fascinating look back in time and an insight into the dramatic but sometimes unnoticed changes to the landscape down through the years.

“While of course these images can’t tell us the full story of a place and its people, it is certainly encouraging to see and reflect on the restoration of woodlands and peatlands over the years at some of our most beautiful and special sites for nature.”

Find out more about NatureScot’s National Nature Reserves.