Heather in bloom amidst Scots Pines, RSPB Abernethy nature reserve

What are uplands?

The uplands cover about 40% of the UK land surface area. The most extensive areas are in Scotland, northern England and Wales.

Why are the uplands important?

Between 70 and 90 per cent of our drinking water comes from surface water, most of which is gathered in the uplands. Inappropriate management practices can affect raw water quality (especially colour) adding to the costs of water treatment.

The uplands' vast peat reserves are a major carbon store. Management practices (especially vegetation burning, afforestation and inappropriate grazing,) which degrade peatland habitats may result in soil erosion and the release of stored carbon. Climate change may further exacerbate this problem.

Some of our most charismatic landscapes are in the uplands. More than 40,000 square kilometres are included in the UK-wide network of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in Scotland, National Scenic Areas.

 Mountain top with stone pile, Corre Cas, Cairngorm, Highlands, Scotland.

Home to wildlife of international importance

The uplands attract more than 100 million day visits a year. 

Access to green space and nature is strongly linked to improvements in physical and mental well-being. Walking is one of the few increasing leisure activities and access to the natural environment is the main motivator.

Upland businesses have traditionally been land-based. Increasingly, the upland economy is reliant on service jobs, visitors and rural support measures. Distance from markets and low production potential makes it hard for upland farmers to compete. Rural tourism often depends on, but does not directly contribute to the land management providing the assets that visitors respond to.

The uplands comprise a range of important habitats that are afforded special protection measures as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Areas of Special Scientific Interest in Northern Ireland), Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas. 

These special places are home to internationally important wildlife including iconic species like the mountain hare, Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel and birds including golden eagle, hen harrier, curlew, lapwing, black grouse, ring ouzel and twite. Despite their importance for wildlife, many of our most special sites are in poor condition.

Mountain Hare, Lepus timidus: juvenile "blue" / summer coat. Feeding in garden on edge of moorland. Stirlingshire. Scotland