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 Sue Scott/SNH

In this section we arrive at our agenda for biodiversity conservation. We explore where we hope to be in 25 years time - the desired outcomes in relation to each of five stated objectives. We then present an agenda for action for each objective.

Setting out our aim and objectives

The overall aim of this strategy is:

to conserve biodiversity for the health, enjoyment and wellbeing of the people of Scotland now and in the future

The foregoing analysis suggests the need for balanced action across a range of areas to meet this broad aim. The required actions can be grouped under five major strategic objectives:

Species & Habitats: To halt the loss of biodiversity and continue to reverse previous losses through targeted action for species and habitats

People: To increase awareness, understanding and enjoyment of biodiversity, and engage many more people in conservation and enhancement

Landscapes & Ecosystems: To restore and enhance biodiversity in all our urban, rural and marine environments through better planning, design and practice

Integration & Co-ordination: To develop an effective management framework that ensures biodiversity is taken into account in all decision making

Knowledge: To ensure that the best new and existing knowledge on biodiversity is available to all policy makers and practitioners

On the following pages, we take each of these objectives in turn, and explore where we hope to be in 25 years time - the desired outcome - in relation to that objective. This leads us to an agenda for action for each objective. Since this is a 25 year strategy it cannot be detailed and prescriptive, nor can it designate responsibility for implementation. It summarises the main kinds of action that will need be taken forward through the implementation plans over the coming years.

This agenda for action has been developed on the basis of wide consultation and review of supporting documents, and has drawn in particular on the higher level actions and objectives identified by working groups engaged in the development of the implementation plans, and on the agenda for action identified in "Biodiversity Matters!".

It is important not to consider each objective and agenda for action in isolation. They are closely linked and mutually supporting. In particular, many of the strategic actions under the people, integration and knowledge objectives support the species and habitats and landscapes and ecosystems objectives, and actions under landscapes and ecosystems support those under the species and habitats objective and vice-versa.

Opencast mine to nature park

Greenhead Moss in North Lanarkshire lies on the site of former opencast coal and landfill operations. In 1997, North Lanarkshire Council resisted further applications for opencast and related developments, compulsorily purchased the site, and began the task of reinstating the landscape. A restoration plan was established to reverse the decline in a remnant of raised bog on the site; encourage more local use of the site; increase biodiversity; and provide training for local unemployed people.

Local people have always had close ties with the site, and had campaigned against proposed extensions to mining and landfill operations in the mid-1990s. A Community Trust was established, with nominations for community directors being received from all the distinct communities around the site. Today, the Greenhead Moss nature park is run by the Trust - a partnership of the public sector and local people.

4.1 Species & Habitats

Protecting and restoring our assets for future generations

ObjectiveWe now have in place in Scotland a network of designated sites, as well as the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and the Local Biodiversity Action Plan network. Great progress has been made and there are signs that some of the species and habitats declines are now slowing or being reversed. But if we are to come close to our commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity, or to European or UK targets, we need to strengthen this process.

Outcome 2030

The loss of priority species and habitats has been halted, and many priority species and habitats are increasing in both numbers and range. The overall balance is positive. Comprehensive monitoring systems are in place to enable accurate assessment of the state of our biodiversity. Where decline continues, the reasons are understood, and measures are in place to minimise losses. The genetic diversity within species is better understood and actions to conserve this diversity for priority species are in place. The spread of invasive non-native species has been slowed or halted, and specific areas, regions or islands are designated as free from some invasive and non-native species. Rare and specifically 'Scottish' varieties of domestic plants and animals have been catalogued and more effectively conserved.

Wider countryside measures ensure that further species are not joining the priority list, although there is recognition that some changes due to climate change are inevitable and irreversible.

Sphagnum moss and stems of cotton grass, Braehead MossCourtesy of SNH

Sphagnum moss and stems of cotton grass, Braehead Moss
Courtesy of SNH

A cowrie on a serpulid worm in Loch CreranCourtesy of SNH

A cowrie on a serpulid worm in Loch Creran
Courtesy of SNH

Agenda for action

1. Deliver the actions and outcomes identified in the UK species and habitat action plans relevant to Scotland

2. Strengthen and further develop monitoring of habitats and species to ensure that progress against UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) targets and other indicators can be measured

3. Encourage the Local Biodiversity Action Plan network and ensure it has adequate resources to support the delivery of national objectives and to facilitate action by local people

4. Improve the co-ordination and management of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan network - between Local Biodiversity Action Plans and with national level Biodiversity Action Plans

5. Develop at local level further actions for biodiversity conservation and enhancement that take full account of climatic, economic and land-use change

6. Manage the Natura 2000, Ramsar, SSSI, and National Nature Reserve site network to protect and where appropriate enhance conservation interests

7. Manage National Parks to protect and where appropriate enhance conservation interests

8. Manage existing and develop new local nature reserves and wildlife sites to protect and where appropriate enhance conservation interests

9. Facilitate action by local people to identify and protect important species and habitats

10. Implement our commitments to marine protected areas under international commitments

11. Minimise the detrimental impacts of non-native invasive species

The corncrake and crofting practice

The corncrake is threatened throughout Western Europe. In Britain, it declined rapidly throughout the 20th century as a result of changing agricultural practices, and is now confined mainly to the island crofting areas of Scotland's west coast where it breeds in the summer. it spends the winter in East Africa, south of the Sahara.

The Corncrake Species Action Plan is being implemented with funding from The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Scottish Natural Heritage assisted by the Scottish Crofting Foundation, to support crofters and farmers in providing secure habitat for bredding corncrakes throughout the season. This involves early cover, late cutting and corncrake "friendly mowing" of meadows to protect nests and late cover for chicks. The species has now made an encouraging recovery to late 1970s numbers and the corncake's rasping call is once again becoming more common on Hebridean islands such as Coll and Tiree where many tourists come to hear and see these charismatic birds.

Corncrake calling in hay meadow at dusk, TireeCourtesy of RSPB

Corncrake calling in hay meadow at dusk, Tiree
Courtesy of RSPB

Objective4.2 People

Putting people at the heart of our biodiversity strategy

Despite widespread concern for wildlife, relatively few people, organisations or businesses actually engage in biodiversity conservation, or enjoy the benefits it brings in economic, health and quality of life terms. There is a tremendous opportunity here to make biodiversity a core value in Scottish culture, and to ensure that everyone in Scotland recognises and enjoys the complexity and beauty of the environment, and takes steps through actions in their work and daily lives to conserve and enhance it.

Thrift growing on the harbour wall at Kinloch, Isle of Rum NNRCourtesy of SNH

Thrift growing on the harbour wall at Kinloch, Isle of Rum NNR
Courtesy of SNH

Sowing wild bird coverCourtesy of Jack Fleming/RSPB

Sowing wild bird cover
Courtesy ofJack Fleming/RSPB

Outcome 2030

A sense of responsibility for and stewardship of biodiversity is a core value in Scottish culture, and particularly for all users and managers of land and water. Corporate responsibility reporting is widespread among businesses and includes reporting on environmental and biodiversity issues and appropriate best practice.

More people understand and enjoy the social, economic and environmental benefits of biodiversity. All those who work directly with nature and natural resources - farmers, foresters, gamekeepers, fishermen, fish farmers, gardeners, civil engineers, architects, land, park and open space managers and designers - have increased awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues, are better able to identify and motivated to develop opportunities for biodiversity enhancement, and have become more engaged in advising on the best ways forward.

Children and adults experience more firsthand learning about biodiversity in the open spaces around them, and reinforce the demand for action at all levels to enrich biodiversity in parks and golf courses, sports fields, transport corridors, green and brown-field sites. Many more people recognise and enjoy the complexity and beauty of their environment and take steps, through actions small and great in their daily lives, to conserve and enhance it.

Agenda for action

1. Strengthen the role of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan network in engaging a wider range of people in biodiversity conservation, and in exploring innovative ways of promoting interest in biodiversity

2. Ensure that people, enterprises, and government at all levels understand the values of biodiversity, and how their actions affect biodiversity

3. Review and where necessary enhance the place of biodiversity in formal education

4. Encourage and facilitate first hand learning about biodiversity in the natural environment

5. Encourage ownership, responsibility and best practice in relation to biodiversity on the part of individual, enterprises and government

6. Facilitate incorporation of biodiversity in corporate responsibility initiatives, codes of conduct and other market-led mechanisms

7. Promote sustainable tourism and sustainable use of biodiversity resources

8. Facilitate enjoyment and appreciation of biodiversity, and its links to healthy living

9. Coordinate and support the provision of access to, and understanding of, natural habitats in deprived communities

10. Encourage active community involvement in biodiversity conservation and enhancement through volunteering and enjoyment of wildlife and green space

11. Encourage biodiversity conservation as a key element in community planning

12. Facilitate identification and recognition of local wildlife sites and local nature reserves and their use to stimulate local awareness, engagement in conservation and education

Inverpolly NNR Interpretation Sign, InverpollyCourtesy of SNH

Inverpolly NNR Interpretation Sign, Inverpolly
Courtesy of SNH

People make the links

The tree planting and woodland development at Garmouth in Moray provides a living green space linking the village with the Spey Viaduct Walk, as well as a craft centre. The community has been involved since the outset in the planning, and later in tree planting and path creation - freely contributing their labour, energies, ideas, and enthusiasms. Within the wood a pond has been created, providing a rich focus for wildlife, with plenty to keep the interest of walkers. By working together, the owners and community have added value from the creation of a community woodland to give future generations in the village great pleasure.

People do care

Affection and care for the natural environment and biodiversity is widespread, shown by the level of support for organisations, the popularity of television wildlife programmes and the increasing numbers taking part in biodiversity related activities. The RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch", encourages people to record birds for an hour in their garden, school or a local park and send their observations in for analysis. From modest beginnings in the 1970s, the Big Garden Birdwatch has gone from strength to strength, and by 2004 over 22,000 people across Scotland were getting involved.

Objective4.3 Landscapes & Ecosystems

Shaping the bigger biodiversity picture

We need an enhanced appreciation of the relationship between different elements in landscapes and ecosystems, and the degree to which they are mutually dependent and supporting. We need to recognise and take account of the value of ecosystems and the services they provide. We need to 'reconnect' fragmented habitats and populations, and ensure that as climate change takes effect, wildlife can move and adapt as far as possible. This will require better planning, forward thinking and more coordinated action by different departments, agencies and business.

Upland landscape in the Glenshee HillsCourtesy of SNH

Upland landscape in the Glenshee Hills
Courtesy of SNH

Common Starfish and sea anemones, St KildaCourtesy of Sue Scott/SNH

Common Starfish and sea anemones, St Kilda
Courtesy of Sue Scott/SNH

Outcome 2030

Scotland's landscapes are attractive and diverse; and terrestrial and marine ecosystems are healthy, productive, and rich in biodiversity. Planning is more strategic and more integrated, taking full account of the complex relationships between different elements and activities in landscapes, seascapes and ecosystems, in both time and space.

The overall pattern of land and water use, in both rural and urban environments, supports a rich and varied array of wildlife. Organisms can move, feed, reproduce and disperse effectively, and are better able to adapt to changing circumstances of land use and climate change. Farmland, urban green-space, transport corridors, gardens - and indeed all 'managed' environments including coastal and marine - have become richer in wildlife through widespread improvements in design and practice.

Agenda for action

1. Adjust and apply measures under the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy to reinforce landscape and ecosystem level planning and support appropriate conservation management

2. Provide incentives to create and link habitats and conserve/create important underpinning landscape features in all open spaces

3. Co-ordinate policies and actions relating to forestry, farming, transport and infrastructure, and urban spatial planning to maximise habitat linkage and minimise further fragmentation

4. Enhance biodiversity in all transport corridors, and public and private greenspace through public and private sector initiatives

5. Develop guidance in relation to maximising biodiversity in all open spaces, and in relation to landscape and ecosystem level planning and management by responsible authorities

6. Improve the management of marine resources, seascapes and ecosystems to take full account of the interactions between species - commercial and non-commercial

7. Further reduce chemical pollution from all activities on land and sea

8. Minimise the risk of farmed organisms adversely affecting wild organisms, directly or indirectly, through conditions and protocols, and through spatial zoning where appropriate

9. Develop cost effective indicators relating to landscape scale biodiversity and habitat linkage, ecosystem health, genetic diversity and structural diversity

Water lillies and reeds, lochan, Achmelvich, SutherlandCourtesy of SNH

Water lillies and reeds, lochan, Achmelvich, Sutherland
Courtesy of SNH

4.4 Integration and Co-ordination

Improving the management framework

We need to improve the management of biodiversity in all its dimensions. At the present time the scope of management for biodiversity is limited; incentives to conserve and enhance biodiversity are relatively few and sometimes uncoordinated or contradictory; decision making processes at all levels often fail to take account of biodiversity. Biodiversity management is seen as something for specialists, rather than something which everyone should address as a routine part of their decision making.

Outcome 2030

Biodiversity - and Local Biodiversity Action Plans - are taken into account in all significant development programmes and grant schemes; and in policy, planning, design and development decisions taken by government and business. Local Biodiversity Action Plans are better co-ordinated with each other and with national biodiversity objectives, and they are more effectively communicated to relevant decision makers and practitioners.

Incentives are in place at all levels to encourage biodiversity conservation and enhancement and to include biodiversity as a routine component in best practice. Environmental assessment procedures specifically address biodiversity issues, including cumulative impact. This strategy and its associated implementation plans have become a major force for the successful integration, facilitation, co-ordination and promotion of biodiversity action.

Analysis of monitoring data reveals trends and issues requiring action across different arms of government. Mechanisms are in place to initiate and co-ordinate such action.

View of field pattern, OronsayCourtesy of RSPB

View of field pattern, Oronsay
Courtesy of RSPB

Orkney Mainland, Aerial ViewCourtesy of RSPB

Orkney Mainland, Aerial View
Courtesy of RSPB

Agenda for action

1. All public bodies should take account of, and further biodiversity conservation and enhancement in all their functions and activities

2. Increase integration between policies, programmes, actions and incentives across government to deliver coherent policy and incentives which enhance biodiversity

3. Improve decision making procedures in government and business planning to address multiple sustainable development objectives (e.g. through strategic environmental assessment); to assess and communicate the implications of alternative actions/objectives; and to ensure that biodiversity values and opportunities are taken fully and efficiently into account

4. Establish the organisations and partnerships needed to co-ordinate and drive the complex processes needed to achieve all the strategy objectives

5. Strengthen existing incentives and develop new ones to extend the range and scope of environment friendly agriculture and land management, forestry, fishing and tourism

6. Further develop cross-compliance - making biodiversity protection and enhancement a condition for grant or subsidy - and explore its use to effect best practice in other publicly funded activities

7. Include standards relating to biodiversity in the development of river catchment plans under the Water Framework Directive (Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003) and in other environmental management plans

8. Establish clear priorities and milestones in the implementation plans to guide progress and achievement

9. Develop reporting protocols and guidelines which include reference to biodiversity for government departments, agencies, local government, and business

10. Develop existing biological indicators as part of a comprehensive and cost-effective suite of indicators for social engagement; effective biodiversity management; landscape scale biodiversity; ecosystem health; and genetic diversity

11. Use the strategy itself as a management tool to ensure effective delivery of biodiversity gains

Working together brings results

Corn bunting and tree sparrow, along with other finches, larks and buntings, have been the subject of management agreements in Aberdeenshire, Fife and Dumfries and Galloway.This has led to areas of wild bird cover being established on set-aside ground to the benefit of these species.

Corn bunting eating grainCourtesy of RSPB

Corn bunting eating grain
Courtesy of RSPB

Managing the complex and controversial

The interactions between farmed and wild salmon are complex. The potential, but still poorly understood effects include disease, genetic mixing and competition. We need to establish decision making mechanisms which are better able to deal with controversial and uncertain issues - mechanisms which assess the costs, benefits and risks of alternative approaches to the management of the fishery and fish farming; and which deliver a sustainable future for both industries.

4.5 Knowledge

Gathering, sharing and using the best biodiversity research

Our understanding of biodiversity remains very limited. Despite recent advances, we still have very little idea of what is out there and what is happening to it. Equally, where more is known, much of the existing information and advice is not available in the right form in the right place to help the right people make informed decisions. We need better quality information, more effectively channelled.

Outcome 2030

Anyone who wishes to learn more about Scotland's biodiversity in general, or in relation to specific issues or opportunities, has ready access to stimulating and appropriate information.

School children, students, researchers and the general public are able to draw on a growing and accessible resource of information on the value and state of Scotland's biodiversity, and practical ways to enhance biodiversity at all levels from gardens to landscapes. More specific, high quality information and advice on best practice are available, tailored to the needs of different sectors and levels of decision makers. Simple access gateways and search systems have been developed to bring together the numerous sources of biodiversity information.

Biodiversity advice is consistent, realistic and accessible. We understand better the contribution of biodiversity to health and quality of life, and the social and economic values of biodiversity more generally. Critical gaps in our knowledge are reviewed regularly by a wide range of stakeholders. Cost-effective and co-ordinated research is undertaken as required.

Agenda for action

1. Further develop the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and the National Biodiversity Network gateways and associated resources

2. Develop an effective gateway, linked to the above, for practical sectoral guidance for biodiversity conservation and enhancement in relation to all major human activities and associated environments

3. Increase accessibility, attractiveness, relevance, and utility of existing information, knowledge, and guidance, e.g. through establishing a network of Scottish Local Records Centres

4. Link, co-ordinate, and rationalise where possible existing sources of information

5. Develop and refine the biodiversity research strategy, and strengthen mechanisms to identify and fill critical gaps in knowledge and understanding

6. Strengthen mechanisms to identify and fill critical gaps in skills and capacity

7. Ensure coherence and consistency of different forms and sources of biodiversity advice from both government and non-government organisations

8. Engage a far wider range of people, and resource users in particular, in gathering information about the state and quality of their environment and associated biodiversity

9. Scientists and resource users cooperate to enhance our practical understanding of natural resource and biodiversity management issues

10. Understand better the social and economic value of biodiversity in all its dimensions, and communicate this knowledge more effectively to key decision makers

11. Improve understanding of ecosystem 'health' and 'resilience' and communicate this to key policy developers, planners, and decision makers

12. Monitor and report on the state of our biodiversity through time and analyse the information effectively to better understand the trends, the causes of change, the impact of interventions, and the opportunities for action to conserve and enhance biodiversity

Fungus growing on treeCourtesy of Lorne Gill/SNH

Fungus growing on tree
Courtesy ofLorne Gill/SNH

Diver on Zostera bed, Eynhallow Sound, OrkneyCourtesy of MNCR/SNH

Diver on Zostera bed, Eynhallow Sound, Orkney
Courtesy of MNCR/SNH

Research and innovation do help

Norway lobster, Nephrops (more usually known as scampi or 'prawns'), has long been a key catch for the Scottish fisheries. Seafish and Fisheries Research Services (Aberdeen) have developed new net designs for this fishery which exploit behavioural differences between species to reduce the by-catch of whitefish. Trials suggest a major reduction in whitefish and only a very small reduction in Nephrops catch. The benefits to other fisheries and the wider ecosystem are clear. However, we still need more research to develop these designs and more incentives to use them.