Bid to make Flow Country blanket bog World Heritage site
Plans have been approved to allow Europe's largest peatbog to apply for Unesco World Heritage status.
Called the Flow Country, the area stretches across Caithness and Sutherland.
The 494,210-acre (200,000ha) area of peatbog, lochs and bog pools is more than twice the size of Orkney.
The Peatlands Partnership has secured approval from the UK government to prepare a bid to Unesco for the designation in three years' time.
Public consultation on the plan has already taken place, with communities living in and on the fringes of the Flow Country.
What is the Flow Country?
- Bogs in the tundra-like landscape have been growing since the end of the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago
- The area's peat is up to 10m (33ft) deep
- Its soil stores about 100 million tonnes of carbon
- People live and work in the Flow Country and its communities include tiny Forsinard
- Wildlife found in the area include otters, deer and common scoter ducks. In the UK, common scoters breed at only a few locations in the Flow Country and lochs in the hills and glens near Inverness
Scotland currently has six World Heritage sites.
They are the Antonine Wall, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and the Forth Bridge.
A wide range of organisations are involved in the Flow Country Unesco bid and include Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry and Land Scotland, Scottish Forestry, Highland Council, RSPB Scotland and Plantlife International.
Also, the Environmental Research Institute UHI in Thurso, Highland Third Sector Interface, Flow Country Rivers Trust, Northern Deer Management Group and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The UK government has responsibility for approving submissions to Unesco for the status.
The partnership has welcomed the chance to put together a bid in 2023.
Scotland's natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon has congratulated the partnership on its work on the submission so far.
She said: "I visited this amazing peatland myself last year and saw the local community's support for the World Heritage Site application, so I want to congratulate the Peatlands Partnership on their success to date and wish them well in their future nomination to Unesco.
"This is indeed great news not just for Caithness and Sutherland but for all of Scotland.
"The Flow Country will be a great addition to the global list of World Heritage Sites."