Nature matters in Argyll and Bute

Pupils from Lochgilphead High School on a photography and nature workshop (Snapberry) at Taynish National Nature Reserve, Argyll. May 2018. ©Lorne Gill/SNH For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or www.nature.scot

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Nature-based solutions to help combat climate change are a big part of Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) work in Argyll and Bute.

The region has a good track record with the lowest current rate of carbon dioxide emissions per head of population in the UK. SNH staff, who are part of west coast community planning partnerships, have been helping local partners understand how to make the most of natural habitats which have the greatest capacity to absorb and lock up carbon emissions.

Argyll and Bute has large areas of peatland and a huge area of woodland which is actively locking in carbon. The seas surrounding the islands of Argyll provide a ‘blue carbon’ facility to absorb carbon dioxide, thanks to the action of marine algae.

In 2019 there was a lot of interest in the Sea Eagle Management Scheme, including from areas which sea eagles have recently moved into. The scheme is designed to support crofters and farmers to mitigate the impacts that sea eagles can have on sheep flock. SNH and its partners have been developing some new approaches on trial farms and plan to roll out some of the techniques that may reduce impacts on sheep flocks. For updates on the scheme see www.nature.scot

Now in its 11th year, the Snapberry project uses photography to connect students with the astonishing natural landscape of Taynish nature reserve. It is a collaboration between SNH and Lochgilphead High School, with digital imagery allowing participants to express what they see and feel about their environment.

Through the years, the groups have always been mixed ability groups; however 2019 was the first year the whole group of pupils who took part in the Snapberry Project all had additional support needs. Organisers have seen remarkable responses from these pupils in previous years, when they get out of the classroom and into nature. One year, a boy whose responses were fairly limited in school, interacted with his peers in a way never before seen by the teachers. Some pupils have also discovered a natural talent for photography that they never knew they had.

As part of a parliamentary event celebrating the national nature reserves, the Snapberry Project was chosen to highlight the work done at Taynish and how SNH connect people, especially young people, with nature.

Some of the young people who took part in the project in 2019 were invited, along with two of their teachers and a parent helper, to attend the event. This was no mean feat when their additional needs are considered, however, although challenging at times, the pupils enjoyed their visit. They met two senior MSPs, Mike Russell, a long-time supporter of Snapberry, and Brian Whittle and they even got a tour of the chamber where they were allowed to sit in the First Minister’s chair. It was a visit they won’t forget in a hurry.