June 09, 2023 4 min read

There has been a lot of news coverage on the wildfires in Canada that are creating a giant orange haze and closing schools in New York due to the smoke affecting air pollution. However, closer to home, parts of the Highlands in our Scottish homeland have been ablaze for two weeks now.

The extremities of the situation were brought to our attention by the direct effect these fires have had on an RSPB nature reserve. These fires in Scotland, near Cannich in the highlands, have causedextensive damage, with around half of the nature reserve having been destroyed, devastating rare wildlife. A large area of the woodlands and moorland have been lost with birds such as BlackGrouse and Scottish Crossbills hit whey they're raising their young. The RSPB are asking for urgent support in an appeal to raise £50K to help replace the trees lost in the fire and help restore what's been lost.  This is a cause close to our hearts and we’ve made our own contribution but we know that the RSPB needs all the help it can get so we’d love to urge people to help and make a donation to the RSPB  here


The Threat the Highlands Face 

The Scottish Highlands, with their vast expanses of heather moorland, peat bogs, and dense forests, are highly susceptible to wildfires, particularly during periods of dry weather. The current situation has earned a place as the biggest wildfire the UK has witnessed, posing significant threats to the region's biodiversity and putting lives, wildlife, and properties at risk. Our forests, which are known as the lungs of our earth and the water pumps to the earth, are so important to our ecosystems and in fighting against climate change, making this an issue that stretches beyond the concern of Scottish citizens. 

The Scottish Highlands are home to a rich array of flora and fauna, some of which are unique to this region. Wildfires pose a significant threat to this delicate ecosystem, destroying habitats, displacing wildlife, and endangering rare species. The loss of these natural treasures can have far-reaching ecological consequences.

Beyond the threat placed upon wildlife, the Highland community, which is heavily embedded amongst our forestry, are also facing severe repercussions on their livelihood. As wildfires encroach upon populated areas, the safety of residents and firefighters becomes a paramount concern. Evacuations, property damage, and potential loss of lives are profound impacts of these fires. The destruction of critical infrastructure, including roads and utilities, further exacerbates the consequences for local communities.

The economic repercussions of highland wildfires are extensive. The tourism industry, which thrives on the allure of Scotland's pristine landscapes, suffers as fires mar the beauty of the countryside. Additionally, the costs associated with firefighting operations, rehabilitation efforts, and the long-term restoration of affected areas place a significant financial burden on the government and local economies. 


Why This Has Happened?

One of the best ways to prevent Scottish wildfires to to understand why and how they happen, ranging from social behaviour to global warming, these are some of the reasons our wildlife is currently at risk:

Human Activities: Human-related factors contribute to the occurrence of wildfires in the Scottish Highlands. Accidental fires caused by careless behaviour, such as discarded cigarettes or unattended campfires, as well as deliberate acts of arson, significantly contribute to the ignition of wildfires. Furthermore, land management practices, such as the burning of vegetation for agricultural purposes, can lead to uncontrolled fires.

Dry Weather Conditions: Extended periods of dry weather, combined with strong winds, create ideal conditions for wildfires to ignite and spread rapidly. The Scottish Highlands, known for its wet climate, have experienced an increasing number of dry spells, making the region more susceptible to these fires. This is a direct result of climate change, emphasising a necessity to see this as a larger-scale problem. 

Climate Change: The impact of climate change cannot be ignored in the context of highland wildfires. Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are altering the environmental conditions, making the Scottish Highlands more vulnerable to fire incidents. As climate change continues to unfold, the risk of wildfires in the region is expected to increase further.


Healthy Forests: Image courtesy of @drvivcumming


What we can do to help

Prevention through Education:
Promoting responsible behaviour and awareness among visitors, residents, and landowners is crucial in preventing wildfires. Educating the public on the dangers of careless actions and implementing strict regulations can help mitigate the risk of human-caused fires.

Collaboration and Community Engagement: Collaboration between government agencies, firefighting services, landowners, and local communities is essential in wildfire management. Sharing resources, expertise, and adopting sustainable land management practices can help mitigate the risk of wildfires. Including controlled burning and the restoration of peatlands, these practices promote ecosystem resilience and reduce the accumulation of flammable materials.

Be Proactive:With a clear and direct link between this rise in wildfires and the rise in Global warming, it’s essential to realise that literally; every little helps. Taking a proactive approach to the climate crisis is imperative. Reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy, and adopting a sustainable lifestyle all have an impact. Whether that’s jumping on the popular bandwagon of solar paneled houses and hybrid vehicles, or actually following through on the practice of recycling- a small difference is better than no difference. 


The Highlands: Image courtesy of @jimboamartin


It’s imperative that we preserve the Scottish Highlands' natural beauty and ecological integrity is crucial for future generations. The increasing incidence of wildfires poses a significant challenge, but through proactive measures, public education, and collective efforts, we can mitigate the risks and protect this invaluable heritage and ensure a thriving Scotland for years to come.  

If you want to help the RSPB to bring teams from all over Scotland to help fight the fire,replant the woodland which has been lost and carry out vital monitoring work then don’t forget to donate  here.

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