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28 October, 2021

£1 million for Forth habitat restoration

£1 million for Forth habitat restoration: Aerial view of the Inner Forth ©P&A Macdonald/NatureScot

Funding of £1 million has been announced for peatland and river restoration in the River Forth catchment as part of a major European Union (EU) project.

Over the next four years NatureScot, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the James Hutton Institute and the University of Stirling will work in partnership to restore habitats across the Forth catchment area.

The award is part of the £18m EU MERLIN project coordinated by the University of Duisberg-Essen, which seeks to restore the functions of freshwater and peatland ecosystems across Europe to help tackle the twin crises of nature loss and climate change, and ensure a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The work in Scotland will include the restoration of several peat bogs and their vital carbon stores.  It will restore connections between the Allan Water and its floodplain, to contribute to natural flood management and the restoration of valuable wetland habitats. The funding will also include long-term evaluation and monitoring of the restoration work.

Dr Iain Sime from NatureScot said: “As all eyes turn towards the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, this funding has never been so timely. We know that nature and climate change are intrinsically linked – and that we need to tackle them both together, or we tackle neither. If we are to achieve net zero in Scotland by 2045, we have to focus on solutions based in nature.

“Through restoring and enhancing the natural habitats along the Forth, this exciting partnership project will play an important role in helping us mitigate and adapt to climate change, reduce carbon emissions and reverse nature loss.  This project will also provide us with important lessons to rapidly upscale the most valuable solutions in time to meet our net zero and biodiversity targets.”

UKCEH lead Dr Amy Pickard said: “Ecological restoration should be seen as an investment in our natural capital on which communities and business depend, such as restoring river floodplains to reduce downstream flood risks in our towns and cities or storing carbon in peatlands to offset society’s emissions. At UKCEH we aim to evaluate the success of these goals.”

The Scottish restoration work will contribute to international sharing of good practice to promote the use of nature-based solutions across Europe. Dr. Kirsty Blackstock, who co-leads the transformation work package for the James Hutton Institute, said: “Our task is to help navigate any challenges and find solutions through bringing together diverse industries and communities. MERLIN hopes that working with nature becomes business as usual for all concerned.”

Dr Peter Hunter, University of Stirling lead, said: “This project will invest in nature-based solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises by restoring peatlands and rivers throughout Europe.  Through the use of innovative  ‘digital twins’ such as the Forth-ERA platform, led through Scotland’s International Environment Centre at the University of Stirling, we will explore how we can develop more effective methods for measuring the benefits of such interventions.”


Contact information

NatureScot Media
0131 316 2655

Notes to editors

The James Hutton Institute is a world-leading scientific organisation encompassing a distinctive range of integrated strengths in land, crop, waters, environmental and socio-economic science. It undertakes research for customers including the Scottish and UK governments, the EU and other organisations worldwide. The Institute has over 500 employees and 120 PhD students and with associated bodies and spin-out companies there are over 750 people working on Hutton campuses. The Institute takes its name from the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment scientist, James Hutton, who changed the way we think about our world with deep insights into land, soils, crops and the climate and is widely regarded as the founder of modern geology. He was also an experimental farmer and agronomist. More information at

About the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is a centre for excellence in environmental science across water, land and air. Our 500 scientists work to understand the environment, how it sustains life and the human impact on it – so that together, people and nature can prosper. We have a long history of investigating, monitoring and modelling environmental change, and our science makes a positive difference in the world. The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is a strategic delivery partner for the Natural Environment Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation. / Twitter: @UK_CEH / LinkedIn: UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

University of Stirling

Ranked among the UK’s 30 best universities in the Guardian University Guide 2021, the University of Stirling is committed to providing education with a purpose and carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society. Stirling is ranked fifth in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity (Research Excellence Framework 2014). Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community. 

Among the top 20 UK universities for student satisfaction (National Student Survey), the University’s scenic central Scotland campus – complete with a loch and castle – is home to more than 14,000 students and 1,500 staff, representing around 120 nationalities. This includes an ever-expanding base for postgraduate study.

The University has twice been recognised with a Queen's Anniversary Prize – the first for its Institute for Social Marketing and Health (2014) and the second for its Institute of Aquaculture (2019). Stirling is Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence and was crowned UK Sports University of the Year 2020 by The Times / Sunday Times Good University @stiruni

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

’S e NatureScot buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Bidh sinn a’ neartachadh àrainneachd na h-Alba agus a’ brosnachadh dhaoine gu barrachd suim a chur ann an nàdar. Tha e mar phrìomhachas againn gum bi nàdar na h-Alba beairteach agus gun dèilig sinn gu h-èifeachdach le èiginn na gnàth-shìde. Tha an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh aig no air Twitter aig


Aerial view of the Inner Forth ©P&A Macdonald/NatureScot

Aerial view of the Inner Forth ©P&A Macdonald/NatureScot

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