The Toxic Mountains; Scotland's Peaks Face Pollution Backlash from Global Warming

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Byline: MAUREEN CULLEY

THEY are among the most celebrated mountains in the world, drawing thousands of tourists every year.

From Ben Nevis to the high plateaux of the Cairngorms, their glorious views of unspoilt beauty have few equals.

But experts have issued a dire warning that Scotland's mountain wilderness is facing a serious threat from climate change.

According to new research, the increased rainfall from global warming will mean more pollution problems on higher ground.

The study, detailed in a Scottish Natural Heritage book, explains that any enhanced levels of pollutants such as nitric acid, ozone and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) would impose ' significant changes' in these sensitive areas.

Experts are now calling for action plans to protect the Scottish mountain landscape for people, plants and wildlife.

Environmental expert Rick Battarbee, one of the authors of the study, entitled In Mountains of Northern Europe: Conservation, Management, People and Nature, said: ' Climate change means more pollution and that means problems for areas such as the mountains of Scotland.

'Freshwater streams and lakes in mountain regions usually appear to be in pristine condition. Sadly, this is not always true.

'In some cases, the concentration of toxic pollutants such as PCBs can be higher in the mountains than in the lowlands and global warming may make matters worse.

'There is more rain in the mountains generally and soils erode more easily there. It's colder as well, which pesticides like.

'One of the problems in Scotland has been acid rain and, at the moment, the lakes there seem to be recovering from it.

'Climate change, however, means more rain which reduces the capability of the lakes to recover fully.

'Also, the soil contains pesticides and heavy metals, old pollutants from the industrial revolution carried by the air over long distances. …