Main image on top: Aerial view across the Flow Country showing peatland pool system, Forsinard (Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo /W7MT50 )

Around 15 thousand years ago, the last ice sheet disappeared to leave a barren, scoured terrain. As temperatures rose rapidly, pioneer plants arrived from the south and the low ground was soon carpeted with a rich herbaceous cover. For a bleak thousand years or so, there was a reversion to Ice Age conditions, only arctic species clung on and the ground was permanently frozen. The amelioration of climate at the start of the Holocene, around 11 thousand years ago, the pace of environmental change slackened. The present interglacial has seen many slow changes in the landscape, with the development of soils, the succession of vegetation types and the rise of sea level. The steady pace of change has been interrupted by a sequence of natural disasters, including sudden shifts in wetness, heavy falls of volcanic ash and extreme storms. Man has been the main agent of landscape change in the last 5000 years, initially causing the loss of trees through felling and grazing by domestic animals but later affecting the entire landscape mosaic of soils, vegetation and peat development.

The strath of the Dunbeath Water looking upstream

© Copyright Andrew Tryon / Geograph

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