At Highland Park, we are actively engaged in the protection and support of the unique natural habitats and ecosystems of our Orkney Islands home.
Hobbister Nature Reserve is a mosaic of internationally and nationally important habitats including saltmarsh, sea cliffs and peatlands. We own and manage this land under license from Orkney Islands Council, and we lease part of the area to the RSPB for the benefit of wildlife, including red-listed species such as Hen Harrier and Curlew.
We also engage with Nature Scotland and continue to develop protection plans with the RSPB to manage, protect and enhance the unique ecology and rich biodiversity of this important natural habitat.
In addition to this work on Hobbister Moor, we have established a partnership with Project Seagrass and Heriot-Watt University. Highland Park’s support enables important research to catalogue and map the incredible biodiversity within Orkney’s seagrass meadows. It also enables a wider community engagement programme in seagrass seed harvesting which sees seeds from Orkney’s thriving meadows being carefully processed and transplanted for targeted growth recovery of degraded meadows elsewhere around the UK coastline.
WHY DOES HIGHLAND PARK PARTNER WITH PROJECT SEAGRASS?
- The seas that surround and support life here in Orkney provide many direct benefits including employment, nourishment and sources of power.
- Orkney’s seas also sustain an incredibly rich and biodiverse marine ecosystem and, in 2022, Highland Park set out to establish a partnership that would protect and promote the unique marine environment of Orkney.
- Today, we support marine conservation charity Project Seagrass and their work with Heriot-Watt University to map the expanse of Orkney’s abundant seagrass meadows and catalogue the incredible biodiversity and ecosystem services that they support.
WHAT IS SEAGRASS?
- Seagrass is the only flowering plant that can live underwater. Like other plants, it has roots and it flowers during the spring and summer seasons, but it is pollinated by crabs, shrimp and the general ebb and flow of tides. Underwater seagrass meadows require high levels of light to grow and are therefore found in relatively shallow and calm waters.
- As seagrass meadows expand, they spread out across the seabed and their roots stabilise the sediment, while their dense green leaves create a complex habitat that supports a wealth of wildlife including the provision of vital spawning grounds and nursery habitats for young fish.
- Current estimates suggest that globally we lose an area of seagrass around the same size as two football pitches every hour; this is due to natural and human threats including pollution and physical disturbance from coastal development, chain moorings, dredging and unregulated fishing. However, restorative intervention projects are proving successful with seeds harvested from thriving meadows being carefully processed and used for targeted transplanting and growth recovery of degraded meadows.
- These types of projects, along with meadow habitat mapping, meadow conservation and community engagement – or ‘citizen science’ projects – have been spearheaded since 2013 by Project Seagrass.
“From my perspective, Orkney is the jewel in the crown when it comes to vibrant seagrass ecosystems. The early stages of our fieldwork saw the Heriot-Watt University team focus on mapping Orcadian seagrass meadows and cataloguing the interconnected ecosystem services that they provide, and this work has given us a much better understanding of where seagrass exists in Orkney and how local seagrass meadows contribute to life in Orkney. With Highland Park, we now wish to expand our engagement in the local community and build on the enthusiasm we witnessed during last summer’s community seagrass seed collections. We’ll be seeking to link community engagement to environmental stewardship with a real emphasis on demonstrating the benefits that these abundant natural assets provide to Orkney’s unique seascapes.”
Dr Richard Lilley, Director and Founder of Project Seagrass
“Over the course of 2023 and 2024 we are supporting Project Seagrass’s drive to engage communities in seagrass seed picking and processing pilots as well as advocating awareness of the incredible ecosystem mapping work they have undertaken over the past two years around the pools and lagoons of Orkney, and we look forward to continuing to share what we learn from their work and from working with them.”
Paul Condron, Brand Director, Highland Park