Living Landscapes


What is a Living Landscape?

The Living Landscape concept focuses on managing land at the ecosystem-scale to benefit people, wildlife and the economy. Living Landscapes aim to deliver environmental, social and economic improvements to an area, rebuilding our natural environment on a larger scale than ever before.

The approach to creating a Living Landscape depends on both the natural habitats and social and economic needs of an area. However, there are common factors that are necessary for success:

  1. Action needs to be taken on multiple scales and must link conservation with land use planning.
  2. Projects of this size need deep-rooted support and must be driven by the aspirations of local people.
  3. There needs to be the will to change and serious investment in rebuilding natural assets on a landscape scale.
© Graham Burns

A successful Living Landscape is one with a network of healthy, resilient ecosystems supporting all forms of life. Ecosystem health is restored and society benefits fully from the vital services that ecosystems provide.

Why do we need Living Landscapes?

To combat a changing global climate, a growing human population and an increasing level of biodiversity loss, it is time to think and act big.

Towns and cities need more green spaces and less grey infrastructure in order to reduce heat retention and flooding whilst improving health and well-being. Natural habitats such as woodlands, wetlands and heaths need to expand in order to support sustainable rural development and provide space for wildlife. Habitats also need to be connected so that native animals can move up and down the country without being restricted.

Without space for nature, ecosystems will collapse with inevitable negative consequences. Protecting small oases of wildlife as an emergency measure has slowed the decline in biodiversity, but it is now time to think beyond these boundaries and integrate the wildlife and natural processes at every scale.

Living Landscapes in Scotland

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is currently a partner on three Living Landscape projects: Coigach and Assynt, Cumbernauld, and Edinburgh (see map below). Use the tabs at the top of this page to find out more about these projects and how you can get involved.

Coigach - Assynt Living Landscape

Communities and nature working together

The Coigach - Assynt Living Landscape is one of the largest landscape restoration projects in Europe, aiming to benefit the land, the people and the local economy in the north west of Scotland. 

It's 2050; the communities of Coigach and Assynt are working together to achieve a truly living landscape through improved understanding of their environment and the impacts of climate change; shared active management providing a diverse range of connected and resilient habitats; creation of local employment and training opportunities, and building on the communities’ strong cultural heritage linked to the land. For recent news and information you can visit the project website.

The Coigach - Assynt landscape. © Mark Hamblin, 2020VISION

What does the programme involve?

Working with landowners and local people, the Coigach - Assynt Living Landscape aims to restore the health of the whole ecosystem by improving and reconnecting habitats (especially native woodlands) and creating rural employment and volunteering opportunities.

In 2013, the partnership expanded to involve five new partners. This enabled us to submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership scheme. More projects (currently 35) are in development, adding built heritage and further access, interpretation and learning ideas.

HLF’s Landscape Partnership Scheme programme identifies nine outcomes which the scheme’s collective projects must achieve:

  • Heritage: is better managed, in better condition and identified / recorded.
  • People: have developed skills, learnt about heritage and volunteered time.
  • Communities: have reduced environmental impacts, more engagement with heritage and the area will be a better place to work, live and visit.

How you can help

As a community-focused project, the Coigach – Assynt Living Landscape is always looking for willing volunteers to help achieve its conservation goals. For more information about the project, and for ways you can help, visit the Coigach - Assynt Living Landscape website.

Who are the partners?

The Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape is a partnership project between the Assynt Foundation, Culag Community Woodland Trust, Eisg Brachaidh Estate, John Muir Trust, Kylesku estate, Tanera Mor and Scottish Wildlife Trust. These landowners have joined forces to work together to deliver one of the largest ecosystem restoration project in Britain – an aspirational 50-year plan to bring woodland connectivity, species-rich flora and fauna, and economic growth back to the Scottish uplands.


Cumbernauld Living Landscape

A recovery plan for nature

Cumbernauld Living Landscape aims to enhance, restore and reconnect green areas of the town. Over 50% of Cumbernauld's town centre is made up of green spaces: parks, woodlands and gardens. However, these areas are often disconnected from one another and many are not as good for people - or wildlife - as they should be.

Without good quality, healthy places people and wildlife cannot flourish. Working closely with the local community, we need to ensure that healthy places are at the heart of the town's future. The Cumbernauld Living Landscape's long-term vision is for a green network in the town, providing clean air, water and retreats from the busyness of everyday life. For recent news and information you can visit the project website. 

Cumbernauld Glen. © Katrina Martin

What does the programme involve?

The programme consists of a range of projects to bring physical improvements to the greenspaces and connect more people to their natural environment. By working with communities in an area of over 55,000 people, the programme is:

  • Connecting, managing and enhancing woodlands
  • Supporting community activities and improving access
  • Restoring and managing peatlands
  • Protecting the town's green network
  • Influencing the design of new development
  • Improving water quality

How can I help?

Through a range of different projects there are opportunities to get involved in the Cumbernauld Living Landscape. You can join one of the weekend volunteer sessions or put your knowledge to good use at urban design workshops. There are also opportunities to develop your skills through the internship and trainee programmes run with our partners. To find out about the latest opportunities please visit our website.

If you would like to find out more details about the project, please contact Ian Mackenzie, Project Development Manager, on or 0131 312 7765.

Who are the partners?

The programme is led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, North Lanarkshire Council, Forestry Commission Scotland and The Conservation Volunteers. These partners work with a wide range of local groups and volunteers to develop skills and capacity in community organisations.

Edinburgh Living Landscape

Nature in your neighbourhood

The Edinburgh Living Landscape is a long-term vision to ensure that nature is at the heart of the city’s future. It will demonstrate that investment in the natural environment makes economic sense as well as increasing biodiversity and creating healthier urban ecosystems. To do this we need to integrate nature into neighbourhoods across the city.

The project will reinforce and expand existing green networks and reconnect the people of Edinburgh to their natural environment. The Edinburgh Living Landscape will work to benefit local people and wildlife with an aim to make the city one of the most sustainable in Europe by 2050.

What does the programme involve?

Edinburgh Living Landscape is a group of organisations working in partnership to connect green infrastructure at multiple scales, from window boxes, green roofs and street trees through to large parks and urban woodlands. It is about making the links between a healthy environment, a healthy economy, people's well-being and ultimately the prosperity of Edinburgh.

Species rich grassland. © Alastair Whyte

What does it look like?

The Living Landscape will lead to changes across the city, from bringing wildlife into people's gardens to integrating green infrastructure into Edinburgh's biggest networks. In densely populated urban areas the project will work with communities and developers to turn the grey into green. In the green areas of the city, the Living Landscape will make sure these areas are sustainable and resilient. For parks and greenspaces, this will mean changes to how some of the outdoor spaces look, with the creation of meadows and more natural areas that can be explored and enjoyed. For new developments, nature will be seen as an asset and natural features will be built into the infrastructure.

What is the Scottish Wildlife Trust doing?

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is playing a key role in the development of the Living Landscape. It is working with the partners to ensure the three fundamental ways of improving habitat quality are applied to every scale in the urban ecosystem:

  • Nativeness - encourage native species and discourage non-native invasive species. Native species support other native species in complex ecological relationships which have evolved over millennia.
  • Habitat complexity - encourage vertical and horizontal complexity of structure within habitat patches, whatever their size. This maximises the number of niches available for species.
  • Connectivity - encourage physical and functional connections between habitat patches so the green infrastructure begins to coalesce into a more resilient system.

How can I help?

For information about events and activities across the Living Landscape, visit and follow our Facebook and Twitter pages. 


Who are the partners?

The project partners are the Scottish Wildlife Trust, City Edinburgh CouncilEdinburgh and Lothian Greenspace TrustGreen surgeUniversity of Edinburgh and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. These partners are leading the development of the Living Landscape and working with a wide range of local and national organisations to deliver the programme.


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