SCOTCH WHISKY brand Johnnie Walker has joined forces with RSPB Scotland, to help save a crucial area of peatland in the Cairngorm National Park.

The vast An Lurg North peatland area, which is part of the Abernethy Reserve high in the Cairngorm plateau, is severely degraded and among some of the highest priority areas for peatland restoration in Scotland.

Johnnie Walker has announced it will support the restoration of 88 hectares in this area, which will result in a total area of 160 hectares of the Cairngorm plateau being conserved – the equivalent of around 224 football pitches.

Announcing the initiative, Chief Sustainability Officer for Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo, Ewan Andrew, said: “We are really excited to be setting out on this journey with RSPB Scotland to help restore this crucial piece of Scotland’s natural environment.

“This project is not just about saving and preserving peatland, it is about helping tackle climate change and about making a positive impact on the biodiversity this beautiful landscape provides for wildlife. The area is also part of the water catchment for the River Spey, the greatest whisky river in the world, and preserving the peatland will enhance and protect water quality in the future.”

Senior Site Manager at RSPB Scotland Abernethy, Uwe Stoneman, added: “Healthy peatlands are vital in tackling the nature and climate emergency. The benefits of the work being done at An Lurg help not only the species that rely on this habitat but also filter through a far wider area of the Cairngorms landscape.”

Peatlands are not only home to a whole host of rare and unusual wildlife, but they are also the world’s largest terrestrial carbon store, holding around 30% of the worlds carbon, despite covering only 3% of its surface.

Healthy peatbogs, kept in good condition and retaining water, on average sequester about four times more CO2 than the equivalent area of forest. This habitat is found across the Cairngorms National Park - particularly on the higher ground where blanket bogs form. However, much of the Cairngorms’ peatlands are in a heavily degraded condition, causing the loss of carbon and threatening the species that rely on them. Among other rare species, the landscape supports the sundew plant – one of the UK’s only carnivorous plants – and hen harriers.

The Scottish Government's Environment Minister Mairi McAllan paid a visit to RSPB Scotland's Abernethy reserve. She said: “Restoring peatlands is a central part of our response to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss in Scotland. Peatlands are an integral part of our cultural and natural heritage and it's great to see RSPB and Johnnie Walker working together to protect them. We hope this partnership encourages further private investment in peatland restoration and Scotland’s natural capital to support biodiversity, create green job opportunities and help deliver our world leading emission reduction targets.”

The crucial restoration work at An Lurg will begin later this summer, with a target completion of Autumn 2021, and will see features such as coir logs (fibre logs used to stabilise banks) and dams to slow the speed of water flow and stimulate the development of vegetation in key areas will be installed.