Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands - A strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland

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Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands
A strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland

Header Photo Courtesy of RSPB

Biodiversity is simply the variety of life. It represents a new appreciation of nature, with the emphasis on the incredible diversity of varieties, species, habitats and ecosystems that exist all around us, and on their value to humans". 1

This document presents a 25 year strategy to conserve and enhance biodiversity in Scotland.

It is supported by many other documents and initiatives. The most critical of these are the implementation plans which have been produced to address the following key themes:

  • cross cutting issues

  • interpretation, communication and education

  • urban biodiversity

  • rural biodiversity

  • marine biodiversity

  • local delivery

The strategy presents a vision, aim, objectives and broad directions for action, while the implementation plans are the mechanism for prioritising action and delivering the aim and our objectives. The implementation plans will take full account of changing circumstances through time and will be updated every three years.

A Report on Indicators also supports the Strategy. This report aims to facilitate measurement and reporting of progress towards achieving the five strategic objectives of this strategy.

"This concept of biodiversity embraces all living things, from the tiniest garden ant to the Caledonian granny pine. Biodiversity is everywhere, in window box and wildwood, in roadside and rainforest, in snowfield and seaside and sky.

It is part of the natural heritage we have all inherited. In Scotland we have a bountiful share of this richness; but we must not take it for granted. We depend on biodiversity for our quality of life. What we don't save now, our children and grandchildren will have to pay for later."

Magnus Magnusson KBE

Green Veined White Butterfly on Melancholy Thistle, TaysideCourtesy of Lorne Gill/SNH

Green Veined White Butterfly on Melancholy Thistle, Tayside
Courtesy ofLorne Gill/SNH

The need for a strategy

We need a strategy to ensure that biodiversity is conserved for the sake of our economy and future generations. Biodiversity conservation is an important dimension of sustainable development and a key measure of our success in achieving it.

We also need the strategy to ensure we meet our international obligations. The Convention on Biological Diversity is a 1992 United Nations agreement, to which the UK is a signatory, which commits us to "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources". To take forward the Convention, the European Union has set an objective in the 6th EU Environmental Action Programme "to protect and restore the functioning of natural systems and to halt the loss of biodiversity in the European Union" by 2010. It is vital that we play our part in Scotland in meeting that commitment.

Biodiversity is a key indicator of success in achieving sustainable development.

Sustainable development is defined as: "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) (1987)

Bee nectaringCourtesy of Robin Wynde/RSPB

Bee nectaring
Courtesy of Robin Wynde/RSPB

More specifically, we need a strategy to ensure that we overcome the problems and develop the opportunities relating to biodiversity which were identified in the many supporting documents that led to this strategy - and which we summarise in section 3.

A lot is already happening. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan process has helped identify clear targets and actions for priority species and habitats, and the work of environmental non-governmental organisations and statutory bodies has delivered many important success stories for biodiversity and the engagement of many more people. But current approaches to the conservation of biodiversity are not as comprehensive or as well informed as we would like. Much of the emphasis has been on conserving individual sites or species. While this is a vital component of any strategy, we need to reinforce and underpin this work by addressing the bigger picture: the dynamic landscapes and patterns of land and water use, the ways we can influence these to support and enhance biodiversity on the broad scale, and how we can relate actions for biodiversity to people's everyday experiences and economic wellbeing.

So we need a strategy to help us make these big connections. We need it to get more people engaged; to make biodiversity mean something to everyone; to strengthen existing measures and management systems for our natural heritage; to promote integration and co-ordination; to enhance management of our landscapes and ecosystems; and to promote more informed decision making.

What's in the strategy?

We present our vision for the future of biodiversity in Scotland in section 1. The vision is broad, as it must be for a 25 year strategy in a rapidly changing world.

In section 2 we explore biodiversity in Scotland: its value and importance, its current state, and the major factors which influence it.

In section 3 we explore the issues and opportunities: what it is we are trying to achieve, the issues we need to address and the kinds of action that need to be taken if we are to succeed.

In section 4 we explore where we hope to be in 25 years time - the desired outcomes in relation to each of our five strategic objectives, and the actions required to deliver these outcomes.

In section 5 we set down the broad mechanisms for delivery of the strategy. We highlight the particular opportunities and responsibilities for different agents and stakeholders, and the ways in which the implementation of the strategy will be steered and coordinated.

In Section 6 we consider the processes and the timeframes for reviewing progress and refining the implementation plans towards the vision set out in this strategy.

Female eider duck on nest, Isle of MayCourtesy of RSPB

Female eider duck on nest, Isle of May
Courtesy of RSPB

What's not in it

Taken alone, this document cannot do justice to the scope and value of Scotland's biodiversity and the complexity of the issues associated with its conservation and enhancement, nor to the vast amount of work which lies behind this strategy, and indeed behind current action for biodiversity in Scotland. A range of material is available which addresses these issues in more detail, but much of it is summarised in a set of documents produced by the Scottish Biodiversity Forum and the Scottish Executive. These documents include:

1. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (1994)
2. Biodiversity in Scotland: the way forward (Scottish Biodiversity Group 1997)
3. Action for Scotland's Biodiversity (Scottish Executive 2000)
4. Flying Start (Scottish Biodiversity Group 2001)
5. Biodiversity in Scotland: progress report (Scottish Executive 2002)
6. Towards a Strategy for Scotland's Biodiversity (Scottish Biodiversity Forum 2003):

  • Biodiversity Matters!

  • Scotland's Biodiversity Resource and Trends

  • Candidate indicators of the state of Scotland's biodiversity

  • Summary of responses to public consultation

7. Scottish Biodiversity Forum Research Strategy

Also of particular relevance is "Meeting the Needs...Priorities, Actions and Targets for Sustainable Development in Scotland" (Scottish Executive 2002).

And who is it for?

It is essential that decision makers at all levels in government and the public sector read this strategy - and help to realise its vision. Government and public bodies have a responsibility under the anticipated Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 to further biodiversity, and this strategy in particular. The strategy should, however, be seen as a way in to biodiversity conservation and enhancement rather than the 'answer' in itself.

The strategy is also for the people of Scotland. It addresses issues relevant to farmers and land managers, fishermen and fish farmers, transport companies and utility providers, and businesses - both large and small. Indeed, this strategy makes it clear that everyone in Scotland has a role to play in the future of biodiversity conservation and enhancement.

Fly Agaric fungus, Birch Woodland, RannochCourtesy of SNH

Fly Agaric fungus, Birch Woodland, Rannoch
Courtesy of SNH

Key reference resources

Many useful reference documents can be accessed direct from the websites of the Scottish Executive, Scottish Biodiversity Forum and UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

www.scotland.gov.uk/publications
www.scotland.gov.uk/biodiversity
www.ukbap.org.uk

Also see
www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/eac-wssd/progress.htm

Major Biodiversity Milestones