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Audio Transcript: 5 WHITELEE ECOLOGY

The text below is the transcript from the '5 WHITELEE ECOLOGY' video. An audio-described version of the video is also available.


LAURA: Hi, I'm Laura Young, also known as Less Waste Laura, and for the past couple of years, I've been trying to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle and advocate for climate justice. I've been on a trip around the amazing Whitelee Wind Farm, learning about the net zero debate, how this place is, how it's operated, and the future of our onshore energy. I am so excited to now go and meet a couple of ecologists to learn about nature, biodiversity and the peatland habitat restoration that's happening here.

Hi, guys, how you doing?


LAURA: It's so nice to meet you. My name is Laura.

CATRIONA: Hi, I'm Catriona.

RACHEL: I’m Rachel.

LAURA: I guess by the wellies and the waterproofs, you guys are the ecologists here?

CATRIONA: Yes, we are.

LAURA: I would absolutely love to know a bit more about what it is that you do here.

CATRIONA: So we manage the habitat management plan for the site. So that basically involves a lot of peatland restoration. The site is up on a high plateau. It's quite wet here.

LAURA: It's a bit wet and it's a bit windy. So, it sounds like a good thing you talk about peatland. So is that mostly what's around here?

RACHEL: Yeah. So like Katrina said, Whitelee occupies a flat plateau area, and that combined with it being really cold and wet, lends itself well to the formation of peat. So the majority of the site is covered in peat deposits of up to, I think, about 6 meters deep.

LAURA: What is the importance of peatland?

CATRIONA: Peat is a big carbon sink, which means that it takes carbon with the atmosphere rather than releasing it. So in an active state, in a good state like what we were trying to do, well, we're trying to restore the peat back to an active state and which will then create this carbon sink. That's also great for biodiversity. So, in an active state, in a good state like what we were trying to do, well, we're trying to restore the peat back to an active state and which will then create this carbon sink. That's also great for biodiversity, we’ve got loads of birds on site, and loads of bog specific species.

LAURA: So what kind of plants can I expect to see?

RACHEL: Well, one of the really interesting plants we have a lot of here is Sphagnum-Moss, and that is a peat building moss. So as it dies off, basically that process allows the formation of peat to build up over time.

LAURA: Is that the one that's like just a sponge? It’s quite wet.

RACHEL: Yeah, you can ring it out.

LAUAR: Oh, what kind of birds will I see?

CATRIONA: We've got waders on site,  short eared owl, merlin.

LAURA: Oh, those are the kind of low lying ones. I think that nest on the ground.

CATRIONA: Yeah, the waders are ground nesting birds. So you'll see them over summer making a lot of noise, and out on the bog they really enjoy.

LAURA: How important is it to look after the environment when we build places like this, you know, wind farms?

RACHEL: To be a sustainable developer, that's a really important part of it. We make sure that we look after the environment, particularly adjacent to our infrastructure that we have here, and Whitelee’s a great example of that, especially due to the large habitat management plan we have here and the large scale peatland restoration work that we're undertaking here.

LAURA: What was this place like before white leaves here?

CATRIONA: So before Whitelee, the whole site was commercial forestry. So it was non-native conifer trees planted on peatland habitat, and that was basically drying out the peatland and creating a carbon source. So it was releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. So during construction, the site was felled and now during operations. That's Rachel and I’s job to restore the peat back to an active bog.

LAURA: Is that increasing the carbon storage and the biodiversity?

CATRIONA: Yeah, exactly. A bog in an active state can store up to 15 times more carbon than a forest of the same area. So, yeah, it's really important that we get this site back to good active bulk for carbon storage.

LAURA: With COP 26 coming up, how important is it to shine a light on the work that's done hereat Whitelee?

CATRIONA: It’s really important, and going forward, I guess the climate emergency is going to require a lot of different solutions, one of which is renewable energy, like the wind farm. But another one is nature based solutions like restoring land, planting trees. So, yeah, it's hugely important.

LAURA: Thank you so much for telling me a bit more about the natural elements of Whitelee and some things to look out for. I'm away off to the visitor centre, but it was so great to meet you both, and I’ll see you soon.


LAUARA: Biodiversity and the natural habitat here is so important with species and habitat restoration, and all of the peatland that's around here. It's a passion of mine and something that's close to my heart. So, I'm excited to learn more about it.

One question I still have is, how does Whitelee help the local community? Join me next time as I found out about how this once empty landscape is now bustling with life supporting education and leisure.

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