The Ross & Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Action Plan

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1 The Ross & Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Action Plan

2 FOREWORD This Local Biodiversity Action Plan has been produced by the Ross & Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Group, listed below, with help from Peter Beattie, Scottish Natural Heritage and Janet Bromham, the Highland Biodiversity Officer. Thanks to Kenny Taylor for his work on the habitats and species lists and text, and Martin Hind, Highland Council Ranger Service, for providing practical advice and assistance to a number of community-led biodiversity projects that have received funding from the Highland Biodiversity Project in 2003/04. Members: Aileen Mackay Cameron Ross Fran Lockhart Christel Smeets Sean Meikle Simon McKelvey Kenny Taylor Graham Sullivan Steve Macdonald John Miller Andrew Matheson Representing (Interest): Tarbet Primary School (education) Novar Estate (land management) Highland FWAG (agriculture) Milton Community Woodland Trust (community groups) Tain & District Field Club (recording interests) Conon Salmon Fishery Board (freshwater interests) Moray Firth Partnership (marine & coastal interests) Consultant (ecological interests) Strathpeffer Square Wheels (tourism / business interests) Woodland / ornithological interests Brahan Estate (farming / forestry / recreation interests) The Plan forms part of a suite of Local Biodiversity Action Plans that are being produced for the Highland Council area by the Highland Biodiversity Project, a two-year project funded by the Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise and RSPB Scotland. The Project receives match funding from the Highlands & Islands Special Transitional Programme. It is also available in electronic format on the project s website: JULY 2004 Cover photograph: The coastline near Rosemarkie (Peter Beattie) Internal photographs: Peter Beattie, Laurie Campbell, Ernie Emmet, Fran Lockhart, Andrew Matheson, Simon McKelvey, Charlie Phillips, Iain Sarjeant, Scottish Natural Heritage Design, layout and printing: Planning & Development Service, the Highland Council Printed on recycled paper that is made from 100% post consumer waste.

3 SUMMARY Biodiversity means the variety of life or richness of nature. It is all around us, from the top of Ben Dearg to the depths of the Moray Firth, from the animals and plants that live in our waters, woodlands, moorlands and grasslands to the flowers, birds and insects that visit us in our gardens. We as humans are reliant on a robust and healthy ecosystem for our food, raw materials, clean air and good health. This Local Biodiversity Action Plan has been written for Ross and Cromarty (East), which stretches from Achnasheen in the west to Tarbat Ness in the east, and from the Dornoch Firth in the north to the Beauly Firth in the south. It aims: To ensure that biodiversity issues are given a high priority by local government, agencies and funding bodies; and To involve school children, communities and land managers in delivering local biodiversity improvements. In drafting the Plan a number of themes emerged that are common to many of the chapters: Lack of information: this Plan has been very difficult to write due to the lack of information available on the extent of some of the less well-known species, as well as the impacts of local issues on them. Projects that improve our collective knowledge of the location and management requirements of priority habitats and species would be welcome. As a start, the Plan suggests that a biodiversity audit is undertaken to pull together existing information and identify gaps in our collective knowledge. Lack of awareness: the consultation exercise highlighted a lack of general knowledge about the biodiversity on our doorsteps, both amongst children and grown-ups. It is suggested that an easy-read biodiversity leaflet is produced and circulated to schools and community groups, to raise awareness and encourage local action. Further Know Your Own Patch projects were suggested as a means of helping local communities find out more about the wildlife in their area, and the Plan recommends that a small, easily accessible grant scheme is set up to help fund such projects. Lack of co-ordination: The Ross & Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Group was set up to draft and consult on the Local Biodiversity Action Plan. However, the Group was never intended to be a permanent fixture and it is therefore suggested that a similar group be formed, meeting on an infrequent basis to oversee the development and implementation of the Plan and help target any future funding towards local biodiversity projects. The coastline near Rosemarkie It has been divided into six main chapters, reflecting the six broad habitats of sea and coast; river, loch and wetland; farm and croft land; forest and woodland; bog, moor and hill; and town and village. A map showing the broad habitats is on page iv. The lack of linkages between the broad habitats, spread of invasive species, wildlife crime and litter and fly-tipping are also identified as recurring themes, and the Plan goes on to identify a series of more habitat-specific issues and projects in each of the six chapters. For each section objectives, key issues, current projects and future actions have been identified. Where appropriate, the Plan suggests some partners that might be involved in taking forward the future actions. However, it should be noted that these are merely suggestions and as yet no agreement has been reached on future work. Habitats and species that are important at a local or a national level are listed in Chapter 7. Rogie Falls i

4 TABLE OF CONTENTS Summary Table of Contents Habitat Map i ii iv BACKGROUND Introduction 1 Biodiversity Action Planning 2 Ross and Cromarty (East) 3 BIODIVERSITY ACTION PLAN Plan Aims & Objectives 6 Recurring Themes 6 Chapter 1: Sea & Coast Key features 11 Introduction 12 Habitats & species 13 Objectives 15 Main Issues: 1.1 Marine mammal conservation Sea level rise Marine litter and pollution Recreation Predation Shellfish gathering 18 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland Key features 19 Introduction 20 Habitats & species 21 Objectives 23 Main Issues: 2.1 Population decline in Atlantic salmon Acidification and nutrient enrichment Lack of information on freshwater species Invasive non-native species Lack of wetland habitats Development threats 27 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land Key features 29 Introduction 30 Habitats 31 Species 32 Objectives 34 Main Issues: 3.1 Industry problems Reduction in cattle numbers Loss of wet ground Decline in Spring cropping Reduction in boundary habitats Loss of arable weeds Lack of access and awareness Lack of information 38 ii

5 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland Key features 39 Introduction 40 Habitats & species 41 Objectives 43 Main Issues: 4.1 Woodland fragmentation Lack of broadleaved riparian woodland Restructuring woodlands Reduced regenerational potential Absence of tree-line woodlands and scrub Non-native species Lack of knowledge Lack of awareness and involvement 47 Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill Key features 49 Introduction 50 Habitats & species 51 Objectives 53 Main Issues: 5.1 Loss of open ground Inappropriate grazing Inappropriate burning Hill tracks and footpaths Climate change Lack of species information 56 Chapter 6: Town & Village Key features 57 Introduction 58 Habitats & species 59 Objectives 60 Main Issues: 6.1 Uncertainty over access to the countryside Boundary habitats Community involvement Wildlife gardens Habitat creation Lack of awareness Cats and dogs 64 Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists Priority Habitats 66 Priority Species 67 Rural Stewardship Scheme 71 What s Next? What You Can Do 72 Next Steps 74 ANNEXES Annex 1: Contact Details 75 Annex 2: References & Sources of Further Information 82 Annex 3: Glossary 83 iii

6 HABITAT MAP iv

7 BACKGROUND Introduction The term biological diversity, or biodiversity for short, was born in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio di Janeiro. Biodiversity means the rich mix of plants and animals (the species) and the places where they live (their habitats). It also includes the genetic variation within species. Of course, for many years, those who work the land, volunteers, businesses, groups and organisations have undertaken projects and ideas that have added to the beauty and diversity of the area. Several of the best projects are listed here. Some are very simple, others complex and detailed. Together, they show that people here have had a long and active interest in keeping and improving their area for biodiversity. At Rio, over 150 countries including Britain signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. This means we in this country are committed to protecting our rich mix of plants, animals and habitats. Milnafua Wildlife Garden competition winner (2003) The Highlands encourage creative, artistic people and this can be seen in the hopes and plans for future biodiversity projects that are buzzing around. This plan helps summarise these ideas and will help the organisations that support and fund biodiversity projects to target their resources to where they are most needed. Spear thistle Our Government has asked the people of Britain to identify the habitats and species that make our country rich in biodiversity, and then come up with plans to help protect and improve them. This Local Biodiversity Action Plan lists and describes the special places, plants and animals that inhabit the area of Easter Ross and the Black Isle. The Plan suggests ways in which the rich variety of species and habitats can be protected and improved. Please talk about this Plan in your workplace, in your school, at home, in the pub, outdoors and inside. We hope that you will support the ideas that are in it. Then come up with a new idea for biodiversity - and use it to ask for a grant for your project. You can join a group that needs your skills, your strength, your imagination (there s a list at the back). And when in the years to come, you enjoy the flocks of birds in your garden or the scent of bluebells on a spring morning walk; when you look at the patterned landscape or the leaping dolphins you ll know that you ve played a part in helping to maintain it! Background 1

8 Biodiversity Action Planning A group, now called the Scottish Biodiversity Forum, was set up in 1995 to encourage people from all areas of the country to put together plans that would benefit their local species and habitats. local issues for biodiversity, what is currently happening and what people would like to see improved over the next five to ten years. More recently, the Scottish Executive published the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004) and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (2004). These two documents place a duty on public bodies to further the conservation of biodiversity. Chaffinch Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (2004) In Highland, the Highland Biodiversity Project was created to encourage local people, agencies and organisations to work up plans for biodiversity to identify priorities and help target resources. Through this route, Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) have been or are being produced for the areas of Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross, Ross & Cromarty (East), Skye and Lochalsh, Lochaber and Inverness & Nairn. When all this information was summarised, a series of challenges emerged from the plan: A challenge to individuals to collect and share information about the richness of our natural heritage. A challenge to people to look at the impacts their lifestyles have on biodiversity. A challenge to groups to believe that their efforts do make a positive difference to the species and habitats on their doorstep. A challenge to government organisations and conservation groups to hear what local people are saying about their local biodiversity and support them with resources and funding. Animals and plants don t recognise these administrative boundaries, but they are a useful means of dividing up the Highland Council area into more manageable units. We hope that together, this collection of LBAPs will improve or raise awareness of biodiversity within our communities and help target resources towards local projects. Planning for this LBAP began in May 2003 with a meeting in Alness with individuals, land managers, local groups, and representatives from voluntary and government organisations. From this initial meeting, a Local Biodiversity Group of 11 volunteers was formed and met several times to oversee the drafting and consultation process. The members represented a wide range of interests, including education, land use, business, wildlife, trees, fisheries, science and communities. They spoke with local people to find out what are the key Red admiral Many species and habitats in Britain have already had plans written for them that identify the threats to their survival and suggest courses of action that could help conserve or increase their population and range. These national Species Action Plans (SAPs) and Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) are good starting points to help identify priorities and target effort and resources, and can be viewed at 2 Background

9 The Plan lists the national priority habitats and species that are known to occur in the area (Chapter 7). In addition, a number of local priority habitats and species emerged through the discussions and consultations over the draft Plan, and these are also listed. These essentially are habitats and species that, either individually or collectively, give distinctiveness to the area in wildlife terms. The group decided to follow the pattern of Biodiversity Action Plans from other parts of the Highlands, and have divided the area into six broad habitats or land use types, reflected in the first six chapters. The extent of each of these broad habitats is shown on the map on page iv. We hope that everyone who picks up this Plan will recognise at least one of these habitats on their doorstep, and perhaps be surprised by the richness of life that it contains. If the Plan achieves only this, a greater appreciation of biodiversity, then it will have had some success. Winter scene near Conon Bridge Ross and Cromarty (East) Ross and Cromarty (East) is an area of diverse landscapes, dominated by the deep ice-eroded glens and remote high hills to the west and the broad, open expanse of the Moray Firth to the east. Sandwiched in between, along a narrow lowland area of fertile soils, live most of the 43,356 population centred on the towns of Fortrose, Cromarty, Dingwall, Alness, Invergordon and Tain. Across these lowlands and in the glacial straths, smaller communities and isolated homesteads are scattered, each with their own character of crofts, small-holdings, estates, farms and homes. The high ground has had its ancient geological rock torn and scraped by ice, its surfaces strewn with boulders and clay. The highest tops are often frost shattered scree and boulder beds, home to dotterel and ptarmigan with dark, snow filled corries hiding a rich variety of rare alpine plants. Peat of varying depths, topped by blankets of sphagnum moss, cover the poorly drained lower slopes, and heather moorland covers many of the drier areas. Icicles Use of non-native tree species has been a feature of planting on large estates in the area during the last two centuries and more. Since the Second World War, many valley sides have been planted out with conifers, especially by the Forestry Commission. These plantations can hold populations of Scottish crossbill, crested tit, red squirrel, and (in places) the threatened capercaillie. Visitors to the area cannot fail to notice the impact that water has on the landscape. The tourist heading east from Ullapool will see the great expanse of Loch Glascarnoch with its striking dam wall. They will drive past tumbling streams and rivers that feed into the Blackwater River as it makes its way towards the rich, fertile valley floors of the Conon Valley. Most will be unaware of the wealth of salmon, freshwater pearl mussels and woodland that depend on the sparkling water quality and careful management of this river system. Rivers and burns pour out across the low fertile soils of Ross and Cromarty (East). The Craigroy burn, the Balnagowan and Alness Rivers, the Glass, the Sgitheach, the Orrin and the Rosemarkie Burn all reveal a time when glacial meltwaters cut deep channels into the hillsides. Now they are places for a summer stroll as locals make increasing use of the paths that are being created around them. Fairy Glen, Rosemarkie Background 3

10 The valleys sides also hold the remnants of woods that once dominated the area. Today these alder, oak, hazel, birch and ash covered valleys are oases of plant and animal life in the often intensively farmed areas around the Dornoch, Cromarty and Moray Firths. Lowland farming has had a huge impact on the biodiversity of the area and many of the Biodiversity Action Plan species in this plan are found in field margins, ponds, grasslands and arable crops. Most recently, through changes to the EU Common Agricultural Policy, land managers have been encouraged to farm with more regard to the environment. Schemes to improve riverside habitats, create insect areas, protect amphibians and reduce grazing pressure have already been put into practice by local farmers. Farmland, Black Isle & Cromarty Firth Many businesses have also showed a desire to work sustainably by minimising pollution, sponsoring environmental projects and supporting local biodiversity initiatives. The challenge is to translate a positive approach to the environment into reduced costs, increased margins and better profits. We have a rich natural heritage, but we must recognise that our impact on it has not always been benign. As humans we are both affected by our environment and have impacted upon it. We are a part of biodiversity, and also a major influence on it. Bottlenose dolphins, Moray Firth The inshore waters of the Moray Firth provide a great resource for birds, marine mammals and underwater life including fish, shellfish and crustaceans. The Dornoch, Cromarty and Beauly Firths all provide valuable inter-tidal habitats that have been lost elsewhere in Scotland. All this thrives against a backdrop of coastal industries (fishing, aluminium smelting, oilrig manufacture) and an expanding urban population in and around the city of Inverness, capital of the Highlands. The earliest human settlers lived by hunting and gathering, generally with a fairly low impact on the habitats and species that were harvested for food and shelter. Through prehistory and history our impact on our environment has increased as a result of deforestation, land clearance, industrialisation, and intensification of agriculture, forestry and fishing. Biodiversity has become part of local activity in different ways around our towns and villages. Children learn about it in school through wildlife gardens and other local projects, and it inspires local environmental and community groups to put up bird and bat boxes and undertake other environmental improvements. It is the motivation for gardeners, who plant flowers and berry-bearing shrubs for birds, butterflies and bees, and create ponds for amphibians. Biodiversity also underpins the work of organisations that promote composting and recycling within communities around Ross-shire and the Black Isle. Beach debris 4 Background

11 Although we have much to cherish in our local environment, there are also matters of concern: many of our former native woodlands are now represented only by scattered, isolated trees; many of our wetlands have been drained; many of our species are present in much lower numbers than they could be. The survival of our local biodiversity depends to a large extent on the maintenance and enhancement of soil, air, and water quality, as well as avoiding the direct destruction of habitats and species. Our industrial, agricultural and forestry practices, and our recreational use of land, have all had negative impacts on biodiversity and many, although not all, continue to do so. We also have some examples of changing practices beginning to reverse these impacts. The challenge we face, globally, nationally, and locally, is to develop land use policies and practices which minimise negative impacts, and wherever possible, begin to benefit biodiversity. We hope that this plan will help take us a step closer to achieving this. Loch Achnacloich Background 5

12 BIODIVERSITY ACTION PLAN Plan Aims & Objectives This Plan aims to ensure that biodiversity issues are given a high priority by local government, agencies, and funding bodies; and to involve school children, communities and land managers in delivering local biodiversity improvements. It identifies important habitats and species that need to be conserved or enhanced, and suggests a list of actions that could be undertaken in Ross and Cromarty (East) to enhance biodiversity. encountered a severe shortage of accessible, up-todate information on the biodiversity of Ross and Cromarty (East). Whilst some of the better known groups such as birds, mammals or flowering plants are relatively well recorded, information on some of the less well-known groups including invertebrates, lichens, fungi, bryophytes and marine species, is sadly lacking. Habitat-specific objectives are given in the six broad habitats chapters, but the following objectives have been agreed for the Ross and Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Action Plan: To improve access to information about important habitats and species, and their management requirements. To raise awareness of biodiversity and pressures upon it. To identify local opportunities to improve biodiversity and promote positive attitudes from an early age. To safeguard the biodiversity of existing habitats. To ensure all future developments take account of local biodiversity. To encourage a holistic approach to the management of land and natural resources that takes account of local biodiversity. To maximise the sustainable economic benefit from biodiversity. To establish a mechanism to help deliver the Ross and Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Action Plan. Recurring Themes In writing this plan, a number of common themes and suggestions for future work emerged. Some are recorded under the most relevant broad habitat, but a number of more general points and suggestions are listed below. 1. Lack of information Issue: There is a general lack of knowledge about the extent and coverage of species within Highland as a whole and in drawing up this Plan, the Group Dragonfly Projects that raise our collective knowledge of the location and management needed for these habitats and species would be welcome. Such work would help us monitor the success of this and other biodiversity plans and projects, and the results will help the funding bodies target their limited resources to where they are most needed. Opportunity: The Inverness Museum Biological Records Centre contains species records, but is currently severely under-resourced. If sufficient funding and resources can be found, the Records Centre could be expanded and used to collate, store and issue information on national and local priority species and habitats. Current Projects: Agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage, the Forestry Commission and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency collect and store information on habitats and species. Organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Butterfly Conservation also hold records for particular species groups. The Highland Biological Recording Group is a group of enthusiastic volunteers that collect and submit species records to the Biological Records Centre. However, there are many surveys and projects where the information collected is not made accessible to other bodies. The Cromarty Firth Environmental Data Project produced an Environmental Data Inventory and a Developers Pack. The Data Inventory is an on-line database of environmental datasets and information sources for the Cromarty Firth, which pulls together details of existing information and how to get hold of 6 Biodiversity Action Plan

13 it. The Developers Pack is an on-line resource for developers in the pre-development planning / scoping stage, to help them avoid or address potential problems. It links to the Data Inventory and includes local economic, social and environmental information and an up-to-date Who s Who Directory for the Cromarty Firth. Future actions: Undertake a biodiversity audit to pull together existing information from local groups and national bodies and identify gaps in our collective knowledge. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Highland Biological Recording Group) Initiate an accessible fund for future survey work. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage) Establish a centralised database a new Highland Biological Records Centre to act as a contact point for anyone requiring further information. (Suggested partners: Highland Biological Recording Group, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council ) Know Your Own Patch projects in 2003, which were very successful in involving people in community biodiversity projects and surveys. If funding could be found to continue this scheme, more community groups and schools could benefit from small awareness-raising projects. Current projects: Through the 5-14 curriculum schools throughout the area are developing informed attitudes and a sense of citizenship by involving local communities in projects, and more projects like these ought to be encouraged. Future actions: Produce an easy-read leaflet for local communities and school children to help them undertake projects to raise awareness of their local wildlife. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council Education & Ranger Services) Continue the Know Your Own Patch grant scheme, to help community groups and schools raise awareness of biodiversity. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, RSPB Scotland) Marybank Primary Wildlife Garden Project 2. Lack of awareness Issue: A key theme emerging from the consultation exercise was the lack of general knowledge about the wildlife on our doorsteps, both amongst children and adults. Initiatives that raise awareness of biodiversity and land management issues amongst the wider public are essential to the success of this Plan, and should be developed through projects involving schools and community groups. Opportunities: The Highland Biodiversity Project gave a small amount of funding to a number of Develop educative materials for primary, secondary and tertiary courses that focus on local biodiversity and examine the threats and current / future actions relating to specific species and habitats. Examine the primary and secondary curricula (5-14 and Higher Still courses) and identify opportunities to raise awareness about local biodiversity. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education & Ranger Services, Scottish Natural Heritage) Appoint a teacher / biologist to write suitable materials relating to case studies of local biodiversity, identify and integrate with individuals in local agencies who could be approached to talk to pupils and provide data, and identify suitable sites and sources of funding for field trips and projects. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education & Ranger Services, Scottish Natural Heritage) Develop a central biodiversity resource centre building on the Local Biological Records Centre: providing and evaluating information for developers, planners, etc; hosting study facilities; providing resources for loan e.g. bat detectors, longworth traps, educational materials; and giving out advice on local wildlife watching opportunities for residents, visitors and toursm operators. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Highland Biological Recording Group) Biodiversity Action Plan 7

14 3. Lack of co-ordination Issue: There is currently no group or forum with sufficient remit or geographical coverage to pick up on the work of the Ross and Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Group and help deliver this Local Biodiversity Action Plan. Opportunity: The Ross and Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Group was set up to draft the Plan, and comprises a number of enthusiastic individuals representing a broad range of interests. Several members have expressed an interest in continuing to meet on an infrequent basis to help deliver the Plan, perhaps with administrative support from Scottish Natural Heritage. Future actions: Continue to support the Ross and Cromarty (East) Biodiversity Group to raise awareness of community-led environmental projects, share good practice, oversee actions, run events and support awareness-raising projects. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, existing group members) Employ a biodiversity officer for a year to support the above group in its initial stages and help local communities and businesses undertake biodiversity projects. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage) 4. Lack of habitat linkages Issue: Many habitats throughout Ross and Cromarty (East) now exist only as isolated remnants of once larger areas of wetland, woodland or moorland. Wildlife often cannot move between these remnants, and so populations of some species become isolated and more vulnerable to changes in climate, disease, etc. Opportunities: Biodiversity projects could be targeted to improve linkages between such habitats. Current Projects: The Black Isle Partnership s Making Space for Wildlife report (2004) is a first step towards creating wildlife corridors and habitat networks on the Black Isle. It identifies a list of objectives and actions which, given time will help create a functioning habitat network on the Black Isle (listed in more detail in Chapter 6). Future actions: Undertake projects that re-establish links between isolated habitats through agricultural or forestry grant schemes, or wildlife corridor projects focusing on hedgerows or roadside verges. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission, Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, Scottish Agricultural College, Black Isle Partnership, land managers) Provide training and support to a network of volunteer biodiversity contacts who can advise and support individuals, businesses, schools and community groups willing to carry out biodiversity audits and mapping exercises. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage) 5. Invasive species Issue: Rhododendron ponticum, Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam are nonnative, invasive species that are threatening our native biodiversity. In addition, a number of native species (e.g. ragwort, bracken, gorse, rushes) that often provide good wildlife habitat can become problematic if grazing is removed and the plants are left unchecked. Non-native mammals such as American mink and sika deer are also causing problems for native wildlife, and these issues are dealt with separately in Chapters 2.4 and 4.6. Farmland near Balblair, Black Isle Opportunity: Many of our semi-natural habitats require management through grazing or scrub control, but some non-natives require special attention to eradicate them. Species such as Japanese knotweed can often be unwittingly spread to new locations through machinery or the transfer of topsoil, but such issues can be addressed through training courses and awareness-raising programmes targeted at contractors. 8 Biodiversity Action Plan

15 Future actions: Take steps to eradicate alien pest species such as Rhododendron ponticum, Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam from water courses and roadside verges. Manage other species such as bracken and gorse, which although beneficial for biodiversity in small areas, are detrimental when they take over as blanket coverage. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, land managers) Run training courses for land managers and road verge maintenance contractors and staff to help with identification of these problem species and raise awareness of how to control and eradicate them. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, land managers) Water lily Opportunity: The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime is a multi-agency body comprising representatives of all the organisations involved in wildlife law enforcement in the UK. It promotes the enforcement of legislation and provides opportunities for joint working to address these problems. Future actions: Raise awareness of wildlife crime issues amongst local groups and in schools. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education Department, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland, Northern Constabulary) 7. Litter and fly-tipping Rhododendron ponticum 6. Wildlife crime Issue: There are a number of illegal actions that threaten our biodiversity, including the removal of wild flowers such as bluebells and water lilies from woods or ponds, the collection of rare birds eggs, the deliberate or accidental killing of birds of prey, fishing for pearl mussels and the drowning of dolphins in illegal monofilament nets or disturbance through inappropriate boat use. Issue: Marine and land-based litter from fly-tipping or discarded items including bags, containers and fishing nets and line can cause problems for mammals and birds in any environment. Plastic items or tin cans can cause particular damage, as they are not biodegradable. Current Projects: Some communities regularly organise clean-ups on beaches, rivers or within woodlands. The Scottish Fly Tipping Forum is working to address this issue at a national level, and the current Dumb Dumpers campaign is trying to raise awareness of the problem and encourage people to report fly tipping. Biodiversity Action Plan 9

16 Future actions: Provide incentives for businesses and communities to minimise the waste they send to landfill through e.g. community composting facilities. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, community groups) Consider better signage in valuable areas and education within schools. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education Department, Scottish Natural Heritage, Northern Constabulary) Members of the Muir of Ord Environmental Group cleaning up their local environment 10 Biodiversity Action Plan

17 Chapter 1: Sea & Coast Key features: The following list highlights the key features of our marine and coastal biodiversity, the habitats and species that make this area so special and distinct in ecological terms. Part of the northernmost major wintering area for wildfowl and waders in Europe of crucial importance for birds from across the northern world First and last stop-over in autumn and spring for many long-distance migrant birds Coastal waters used by last surviving resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Europe Part of most important area for wintering sea duck in Britain Third largest cormorant colony in Scotland Most extensive inter-tidal mudflats and saltings in Highland region Dornoch Firth one of the finest relatively undisturbed complex estuaries in Europe Largest area of glasswort-rich saltmarsh in Scotland in the Dornoch Firth Largest stand of eelgrass in UK in the Cromarty Firth, feeding internationally important numbers of wigeon Northernmost UK group of sand-bank-using common seals Best area in Britain for juniper on sand dunes Undisturbed coastal stretches with wide range of nationally scarce plants and butterflies Mussel beds that have been harvested sustainably for four centuries Photos of: Bottlenose dolphins, Saltmarsh (Cromarty Firth), Mergansers, Mussels and Coastline (Tarbat Ness). Chapter 1: Sea & Coast 11

18 Marine and coastal habitats Introduction Arms of the sea push deep into Easter Ross. You can travel some 25 km inland as the whooper swan flies, for example from the Sutors at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth to the mudflats at the Firth s head beside Dingwall. And the journey s much more if you follow all the bays, headlands and other coastal features. Within the Ross & Cromarty (East) area, the coastline stretches to more than 280 km in length, including the three major inlets of the Dornoch Firth, the Cromarty Firth, and the Beauly and Inverness Firths. In the estuarine inner firths, massive areas of inter-tidal sediment are exposed twice a day at low tide. Mudflats at dawn, Cromarty Firth In contrast, just under 40 km of hard shore along coasts is exposed to the full brunt of the open sea. The major stretch of open coast, which also holds the area s main sea cliffs, runs from Tarbat Ness to the North Sutor, with a smaller stretch of open coast along the Black Isle from the South Sutor to Chanonry Point. The combination of these contrasting physical features - extensive soft coastline with associated sheltered mudflats and relatively little disturbed stretches of hard open coasts - provides a huge range of opportunities for wildlife. This includes species for which the area has international importance. Over the years, the coastal area has supported numerous industries and defence works including fishing, aluminium smelting, oilrig manufacture and tourism. With its relatively deep, navigable channel, the Cromarty Firth was particularly developed and evidence of these industries and of War-time fortifications can be seen here. The Dornoch Firth supports a Royal Air Force bombing range and sustainable mussel fishery, which depends on the undisturbed and relatively unpolluted nature of the area. 12 Chapter 1: Sea & Coast

19 The Inner Moray Firth as a whole is the prime site in Britain for wintering seaduck. The near-shore population of red-breasted mergansers Mergus serrator was one of the biggest in Britain. Numbers of scoters Melanitta species, scaup Aythya marila and long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis are also of national significance because they congregate at sea off the north-east coast, in the outer Dornoch Firth and off the Fearn Peninsula. The Cromarty, Beauly and Inverness Firths are important wintering sites for goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Mergansers Cromarty Harbour Habitats & species Sea: The waters of the inner firths especially the Cromarty and Inverness Firths are now worldfamous for their resident population of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus. Estimated to number over 130 individuals at the time of writing, these animals range over a huge sea area from Inverness to St Andrews and beyond but can be seen in groups both large (20+) and small (1-2) off places such as Chanonry Point and the Sutors. On occasion, some dolphins attack harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena that use the area. Coastal waters are also used by common (harbour) seals Phoca vitulina. These animals use inter-tidal sandbanks and mudflats as haul-outs in the Beauly, Inverness, Cromarty and Dornoch Firths. This makes them the most visible large mammal in the seaward part of the LBAP area from a human perspective. As such, they have an economic importance linked to visits by mammal-watching tourists. Many people come to the area inspired by the (less predictable) bottlenose dolphins, and leave having enjoyed views of both seals and dolphins. The largest common seal population is in the Dornoch Firth which (in the late 1980s) held roughly 2 per cent of the British population. Small numbers of grey seals Halichoerus grypus also occur at Tarbat Ness. In terms of fish, the Inner Moray Firth is an important nursery for herring Clupea harengus, formerly exploited off the coast by a winter driftnet fishery. Sprat Sprattus sprattus that spawn in deep water then move inshore to overwinter were also formerly exploited in a small scale fishery. Another commercially important species once harvested in greater numbers is Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus, also known as scampi, langoustine or Dublin Bay prawn, whose main grounds run from Chanonry Point to Tarbat Ness in fine mud off the hard coast. Soft coast: The inner firths are not normally exposed to severe wind and wave action. Soft sediments have built up here, and the inner parts of individual the firths have mainly silt or mud-based sediment. Seawards, the sediment becomes more dominated by sand and gravel, especially in Nigg Bay and at the head of the Beauly Firth. With a tidal range that can be up to 3 metres, vast stretches of sand and mud are exposed twice a day. In the enclosed Cromarty Firth, this inter-tidal area is huge 3,750 hectares (enough to cover much of the land surface of the Black Isle). There are also thousands more hectares of inter-tidal ground in the Dornoch and Beauly Firths, and in Munlochy Bay. Animals live in the sediments themselves, including abundant small molluscs such as the Laver Spire Shell Hydrobia ulvae. Nationally important plant Chapter 1: Sea & Coast 13

20 species that grow on sand and mud include extensive eelgrasses Zostera angustifolia and Z. noltii, and rarities such as Eleocharis parvula, only discovered in Dingwall Bay a few years ago. In turn, the molluscs and plants feed huge numbers of birds. The list is fairly mind-boggling and would be simpler in other firths; the Dornoch Firth is one of the finest large estuaries in Europe as it is relatively unaffected by industrial development and has retained good transitions to terrestrial habitats such as grassland, heath and wetland. But it serves to highlight the amazing variety of firth-linked habitats in Easter Ross and the Black Isle. These include reedbeds near Dingwall. In summer, the enclosed firths are also an important feeding area for the healthy local population of ospreys Pandion haliaetus. Some shingle spits and industrial sites have breeding common terns Sterna hirundo. Otters Lutra lutra have been recorded at low density around most of the coastline within the LBAP area. Morrich More The composition of the wintering bird communities on inter-tidal areas in the three Firths varies, but certain species stand out as giving the whole inner firth system huge significance. These include greylag geese Anser anser, bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica, and wigeon Anas penelope (by far the most numerous duck), all of which can be numbered in thousands. Dozens of Icelandic whooper swans Cygnus cygnus overwinter around Nigg Bay, Loch Eye and the Beauly Firth. The area is also important as a stopping point for migrating birds, for example it is not uncommon to see 5,000 6,000 teal in October / November, and many wading birds also feed up on passage. Within the estuarine areas, the number of relatively undisturbed inter-tidal and coastal habitats provides many opportunities for wildlife. In the Dornoch Firth / Morrich More, for example the northernmost complex estuary in the UK habitats listed on Annex 1 of the European Habitats Directive include: Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide Pioneer glasswort saltmarsh Atlantic salt meadows Embryonic shifting dunes White dunes with marram grass Grey dunes with heath and juniper Decalcified fixed dunes Humid dune slacks Coastal dunes with juniper Saltmarsh, Cromarty Firth Hard coast: The most extensive stretches of hard open coast run from Portmahomack to Tarbat Ness, then south to the Sutors at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth. Beyond, there is another stretch of hard coast from the South Sutor to near Rosemarkie, where the major spit of Chanonry Point stretches south-east across the narrows of the Inverness Firth. Almost the entire length of this hard coast follows the line of the Great Glen Fault. Along it, there is often a steep, sharp shift from land to sea. Old Red Sandstone cliffs (for which the area is internationally famous, due to Hugh Miller s investigations of fossils on the Black Isle) typically drop to a raised beach, a relic of post-ice Age sea level drop, flanking the exposed shore. 14 Chapter 1: Sea & Coast

21 Along the cliffs and dunes between Rosemarkie and Tarbat Ness there are many outcrops of lime-rich rock. Combined with the mild climate, these conditions support plants such as rockrose Helianthemun nummularium (larval food of the northern brown argus butterfly), carline thistle, purple oxytropis Oxytropis halleri, wild carrot Daucus corota and kidney vetch Anthyllis vulnerary. These plants are generally scarce elsewhere in the area. Coastline, Tarbat Ness In one place only the North Sutor by Nigg the complex of sea cliffs and stacks provides breeding space for many kinds of seabirds. Notably, this includes the largest breeding group of cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo in eastern Britain (also the third largest in Scotland). Other breeding seabirds here include fulmar, shag, kittiwake, herring gull, great black-backed gull, guillemot and razorbill. Elsewhere along the hard coastline, breeding seabirds are very few and principally restricted to fulmar and gulls. The hard coasts, with their cliff ramparts and often tricky access from land, are both environmentally challenging for wildlife and, through exposure to sea spray, erosion and landslip, physically demanding for people. The history of this coastal strip has also influenced the mix of habitats. There is much evidence of old fishing stations, salmon netting stations, bothies and shore tracks, and some of the flat areas by the sea were used for growing potatoes and grazing cattle in years gone by. Dune grassland, Morrich More This is a boon for butterflies including scarce species such as northern brown argus Aricia artaxerxes and pearl-bordered fritillary Argynnis euphrosyne. Coastal heathland can be found at Tarbat Ness. Strips of dense-growing native woodland and scrub grow here just beyond the seaward extent of farmland, where creatures such as wild cat can den in quiet refuges along the undercliff. Objectives To raise awareness of the marine environment within schools, businesses and tourist outlets. To raise awareness of species under threat or in decline and prioritise actions to improve their wellbeing. To improve the protection of dolphins, seals and the bird populations that make the Moray Firth such an important biodiversity site. To find out more about the coastal and marine habitats through survey work and environmental studies. To encourage organisations to set the highest standards for sewage treatment and industrial waste discharges into the Moray Firth. Cormorants, near Tarbat Ness Chapter 1: Sea & Coast 15

22 Main Issues 1.1 Marine mammal conservation Issue: Dolphins are one of the most marketable and enduring images of the Moray Firth, but their survival around these shores is not a certainty. They live at the edge of their range and suffer from a number of pressures such as disturbance, pollution and becoming trapped in illegally set monofilament gill nets for salmon. Common and grey seals are also a well known and loved sight around the coast, but there are concerns amongst fishermen about the interactions between seal populations and the numbers of salmon and sea trout returning to spawn in our rivers. Opportunity: The identification of large parts of our coast as candidate Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives draws attention to the areas special features and presents us with both social and economic opportunities. Dolphins are icons of the wider marine environment, and are used in interpretation, education and marketing for local companies, as well as representing a major attraction in tourist terms. seeks to raise awareness of the dolphins of the Moray Firth and the threat of entanglement in illegally set monofilament gill nets. In the two years since the launch of this project, 55 illegal nets have been seized. Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Executive and the Moray Firth District Salmon Fishery Boards are working together to develop a Seal Management Plan for the Moray Firth. The aim of the plan is to safeguard the common seal interest of the Dornoch Firth candidate Special Area of Conservation whilst allowing some targeted removal of a limited number of seals which are considered to be causing most damage to salmon stocks. Future actions: Display information leaflets on the protection of dolphins, report any illegal or drifting salmon nets to the dedicated freephone number , and demonstrate good environmental practice by keeping the firths clean and healthy for marine life. (Suggested partners: Moray Firth Partnership, ships chandlers, boat operators & marine businesses) Sand dune vegetation Dolphin watching at Chanonry Point Current projects: The University of Aberdeen and St Andrew s University have been monitoring the presence and behaviour of dolphins for many years and they have identified around 130 animals by individual markings on their fins. The Dolphin Space Programme is an accreditation scheme for wildlife tour boats. It promotes operators who Watch how they Watch and who carry out high quality cruises of low environmental impact see for more information. 1.2 Sea level rise Issue: Sea level rise could be a major issue for lowlying coastal areas in eastern Ross and Cromarty over the next few decades. Given the shallowness of extensive inter-tidal areas in the firths and the narrowness of flanking shingle and saltmarsh in many cases, there is a real danger of widespread habitat loss. Opportunity: Given the international significance of wintering wildfowl and waders in the area there is potential to provide local value for education, pleasure and small-scale eco-tourism based on these birds. Operation Fish Net is a project undertaken by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime which Current projects: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has recently breached a retaining wall near Nigg to allow an area of agricultural land to flood. 16 Chapter 1: Sea & Coast

23 This will provide scope for the migration of saltmarsh inland from its current boundary, attract increased numbers of breeding waders and act as a defence against rising sea levels. Future actions: Further potential for coastal realignment projects should be explored. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, SNH, RSPB Scotland) 1.3 Marine litter and pollution Issue: Although the local marine environment is relatively clean by UK standards, it continues to be a general dumping ground for anything from sewage and old cars to fishing industry junk. Marine litter poses a range of risks to species including entanglement and ingestion, and greater awareness is needed within the fishing industry. Many sources of pollution directly affect species at the lower end of the food web, such as filter feeding bivalves (mussels, scallops, etc) and pollutants may then be passed on up the food chain. Opportunity: Work has already been carried out through the Moray Firth Partnership and the Cromarty Firth Liaison Group and the Highland Council Ranger Service to draw attention to dangers to wildlife posed by seaborne litter and to encourage beach clean-ups. There is scope for further work along the same lines. Future actions: Seek sponsorship for and encourage more schools and communities to get involved in beach surveys and clean-ups, and raise awareness of marine litter. (Suggested partners: Moray Firth Partnership, Marine Conservation Society, Highland Council, Community Groups) Encourage the installation of more reed bed waste facilities. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, SEPA, Scottish Water) 1.4 Recreation Issue: While there is enormous scope for quiet enjoyment of coastal wildlife here, there are also risks of disturbance in certain areas. Inshore use of fast recreational craft in an area such as Chanonry Point or unregulated dog exercising beside mudflats are examples of activities that can be a problem for wildlife and a nuisance to people who wish to enjoy that wildlife. Opportunity: Information at a few key points, including encouragement to restrict dog roaming in some parts could be a help to both wildlife and wildlife watchers. Current projects: Alness Wild & Green Group, in association with the East Ross Ranger and Marine Conservation Society, have organised beach surveys and clean-ups at Alness Point. Scottish Water Solutions is continuing to upgrade coastal sewage treatment sites and an industrial unit at Evanton is installing a reed bed to treat waste water from its site. Heron with flounder Avoch harbour Chapter 1: Sea & Coast Current projects: The Rural Stewardship Scheme has allowed a farmer to remove bracken and scrub plants from sand dunes at Rosemarkie. This means that dune grasses and rare plants which were being smothered will now flourish by a popular walk. 17

24 Bird watchers monitor the number of waterfowl and waders throughout the winter across the Moray Firth. The Wetland Birds Survey is carried out at low and high tides each year in one of the major inland firths and on the larger inland lochs. The European funded Nortrail Project aims to inform visitors to the Moray Firth about access to its rich coastal heritage. A proposed Hands Across the Firth project, led by the Moray Firth Partnership, will be seeking ideas from communities to celebrate and promote natural heritage links across the area. Future actions: Low impact viewing of wading birds and wildfowl is possible at two public hides at present (overlooking Udale Bay and Nigg Bay) but there may be scope for a modest number of other viewing facilities elsewhere. (Suggested partners: RSPB Scotland, local communities) Increase interpretation and signage close to habitat improvement projects to raise awareness of the issues, timescales and the need for measures such as fencing. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council, RSPB Scotland, land managers) Produce an advice note on responsible dog walking / public access. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council, RSPB Scotland) Identify and protect from development (including the construction of new footpaths) those few remaining lengths of coast which show a natural transition from land to marine habitats. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, SNH, coastal land owners) 1.5 Predation Issue: Ross and Cromarty (East) has some important Arctic and common tern colonies at Nigg oil terminal, Alness Point, Ardullie Point and Avoch. All of these sites are vulnerable to disturbance and predation by mink, ferrets and feral cats. footpath development could reduce any further potential impacts. (Suggested partners: RSPB Scotland, land managers, Highland Council, SNH) 1.6 Shellfish gathering Issue: Although shellfish gathering by hand is a legal right under Scottish Law, large-scale commercial exploitation of cockles in local firths has been a contentious issue in the past. Any resurgence of mechanical cockle harvesting in inter-tidal areas could be hugely damaging to biodiversity. Current projects: In the 1990s large scale, mechanical harvesting of cockles in Inver Bay on the south side of the Dornoch Firth caused concern locally as it was damaging the sand and mud, and removing the shellfish that were prey to the large bird populations that over-wintered there. Similar problems in the Cromarty Firth were addressed by granting of the Nigg and Udale Bays Nature Conservation (Amendment) Order in 1996, and a similar Order is in place in the Dornoch Firth. The working agreement between Highland Fresh Mussels and Scottish Natural Heritage is an excellent example of a coastal partnership designed to support local jobs and benefit wildlife and habitats. It recognises the importance of the Dornoch Firth s historic mussel fishery and helps to continue its sustainable management within an area of high biodiversity value. Future actions: Maintain vigilance with regard to mechanical cockle harvesting and if the issue arises in future, take steps to ensure that the area s biodiversity is not adversely affected. (Suggested partners: SNH, Northern Constabulary) Current projects: Rafts have been installed at Avoch to provide a safer breeding site for terns. Future actions: Trap predators at the Nigg yards, install notices or ropes to deter visitors disturbing birds at Alness Point and Ardullie Point, and install new offshore rafts at Avoch. (Suggested partners: RSPB Scotland, land managers, Nigg Yard) Exclusion fencing around tern colonies would help reduce high levels of desertion caused by disturbance. Careful positioning of any future Mussels, near Rosemarkie 18 Chapter 1: Sea & Coast

25 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland Key features: The following list highlights the key features of our freshwater biodiversity, the habitats and species that make this area so special and distinct in ecological terms. Surviving stock of internationally endangered Atlantic salmon Populations of internationally important freshwater pearl mussel Rivers running close to some settlements, bringing people and riverside wildlife together River gorges where splash, runoff and spray maintain variety of plants and trees Watercourses as corridors and feeding areas for otters, fish and amphibians Lochs containing Arctic char and isolated trout populations Some of the finest areas of wet bog woodland in Britain Alder carr - wet woods at the River Conon Habitats and feeding grounds for birds (e.g. Loch Ussie, Loch Eye) including osprey Ponds as breeding sites for great crested newts and other amphibians Recent recognition as quality habitat for all three species of lamprey Photos of: Rogie Falls, Toad, Achanalt Marshes, Dragonfly and Loch Kinellan. Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland 19

26 Introduction Our main river system, the Conon, drains a huge catchment area and its water s progress to the sea begins in the highest hills in the area. Rain and snowmelt in the corries and hill slopes of the Fannichs, the Monar Hills, Ben Wyvis and even the flanks of Ben Dearg in the west drain into high lochans, bogs, reservoirs, rivers and burns that flow east and empty into the Moray Firth. The construction of dams during the 1950s created large new water bodies and regulated the flows of rivers. Indeed, very few upland river systems have not been affected by hydro electricity construction. These activities have had both positive and negative impacts for biodiversity, with the creation of new habitats and the modification of others. East of the Conon system, a series of smaller rivers the Sgitheach, Glass, Averon and Balnagowan also drain to the Cromarty Firth. There are no large rivers on the Black Isle, or in the lowlands between Invergordon, Tain and Tarbat Ness, but there are a number of significant burns. North-east flowing burns drain to the Dornoch Firth, but the principal sources of fresh water flowing into the Dornoch Firth are the catchments of the Oykel, Cassley and Shin, outwith this area. Together, these rivers drain a vast and remote portion of central Sutherland. Black Water 20 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland

27 The engineering achievements of the dam builders in storing and diverting this water are now part of local history; their legacy continues in the continued use of hydroelectric power and the recent renewed interest in small power schemes in local rivers. In addition to the income generated from salmon fishing in our rivers, many locals and tourists travel to remote lochs to fish for a fine, fighting brown trout. Much of Ross and Cromarty (East) is within the Conon and Alness Salmon Fishery District, with the southern half of the Black Isle in the Ness Salmon Fishery District and the Inner Beauly Firth in the Beauly Salmon Fishery District. This area once had extensive wetlands but drainage for industry, communities and agriculture has reduced these precious habitats to scattered remnants. Lochside woodlands, marshy ground and quaking bogs that have survived are invaluable reserves for wading birds, amphibians and insects. This includes some of the finest areas of bog woodland in Britain, and lochs of international importance for their vegetation and birdlife. Loch Ussie at sunset Habitats & species Upland lochs, rivers and burns: With a few notable exceptions such as Loch Ussie and Loch Eye, the area s rivers, lochs and burns are poor in food for aquatic life. Such waters are termed oligotrophic (nutrient poor) and are typical of upland habitats lying on acidic rocks and soils, where the main rivers are subject to periodic spates. The invertebrate and fish fauna includes a smaller range of species than waters in central and southern Scotland. Among the few fish species to be found here, members of the salmon family are undoubtedly of prime interest in terms of local perception of freshwater wildlife. They have great economic and recreational importance, in addition to their wider social and historical relevance. Atlantic salmon: a flagship species The Atlantic salmon is an important flagship species for biodiversity in the region. The complexity of the salmon s lifecycle and its varied habitat requirements mean that its success as a species is dependent on the diversity of its habitat. This habitat diversity is in turn dependent on the management of entire catchments and links all the habitat types described in this report from upland to coast. Well-managed riparian zones around rivers are characterised by a diversity of native tree and plant species. This leads to great diversity of invertebrate species, some of which blow into rivers and form an important part of aquatic food chains. The leaves from different tree species are shed at different times and decay at different rates, further increasing the variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate species that feed on them. There are biodiversity links to other species and habitats throughout the salmon s life cycle. Scarce marine nutrients from the corpses of salmon, some of which die after spawning, can be significant to primary production in upland areas. Returning adult salmon are needed by freshwater pearl mussels to transport their larvae upstream. They are also hosts to sea lampreys in coastal water and are important seasonal food sources for sea mammals and otters. In recent years, the importance of the maintenance and restoration of varied and healthy in-stream and riparian habitats has been recognised by fishery managers. There are also clearly much wider biodiversity gains to the integration of the management of terrestrial and freshwater habitats. Simon McKelvey Conon District Salmon Fishery Board Due to the income generated from salmon fishing in our rivers, much work takes place locally to monitor, conserve and maximise the catch of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar. A limited net fishery for Atlantic salmon is still carried out within the region. However, the numbers of salmon returning to our rivers has declined dramatically in recent decades. Fishing for brown trout Salmo trutta is also carried out in our lochs. Small burns support both resident fish like brown trout and minnows Phoxinus phoxinus and migratory fish that return to the burns to spawn, such as sea trout (the migratory form of brown trout) and eels Anguilla anguilla. A recent record of brook lamprey Lampetra planeri in a small burn on the Black Isle demonstrates the Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland 21

28 potential for further discoveries and, perhaps, for future biodiversity. Indeed, all three species of lamprey have been recorded in our area. Threespined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus (present widely in rivers) and flounder Platychthes flesus (coastal) can both use freshwater reaches in lower parts of rivers and saltwater in inshore areas. The main introduced fish species in the area, pike Esox lucius and perch Perca fluviatilis, are predators on other fish and so can have an impact on native fish stocks. Linked to the health of salmon in many rivers is the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera. Once much more widespread but now reduced by pollution and over-harvesting, this long-lived mollusc (a century or more is possible) is still present within some of our rivers and burns. It is a high priority species for conservation action, and recent studies indicate that it has a beneficial role to salmon in terms of filtering water and keeping spawning beds clean. Fast-flowing water running through gorges also indirectly boosts local biodiversity through splash, spray and maintenance of moisture in soil supporting river or burnside trees. Lower plants such as mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns are particularly favoured in this way, and there are excellent plant-rich river gorges close to settlements along the north side of the Cromarty Firth. Examples include the Black Rock Gorge near Evanton, Scotsburn Gorge and Allt nan Caorach. Within the spate channels (on boulders and at bank sides) mosses appear to be more common than flowering plants. Strathconon The upland fast-flowing rivers are subject to periodic spates after sudden snowmelt or heavy rainfall. Dipper Cinclus cinclus, grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea and common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos breed here, as does goosander Mergus merganser in part of the uplands in the mid-west of the area. Waders such as redshank Tringa totanus and curlew Numenius arquata may use damp areas in fields near the rivers. None of these birds are rare or listed as a biodiversity priority species in a national context, but together they form a highly valued part of the local scene and, in turn indicate the relative purity of the waters where they feed and breed. Rogie Falls Reservoirs: A number of lochs have been created over the last 50 years by hydro-electric developments. Some of these contain Arctic char and populations of wading birds, although the water levels fluctuate too much for them to provide good feeding grounds for the latter. These developments have had a huge influence on our biodiversity, e.g. through opening up new routes for species transfers, changes in temperatures caused by water transfers and the loss of flood events. Lowland burns, ditches and ponds: In the eastern part of the area, where agriculture and forestry are the major land uses, ditches and slower-flowing burns provide important wetland corridors. Even small watercourses, such as the Braelangwell Burn or the historically famous Ferintosh Burn on the Black Isle, provide many opportunities for plants such as mosses and liverworts to grow and for fish such as minnows, eels and migratory trout to feed and spawn. Good freshwater corridors are also important for conservation of the water vole Arvicola terrestris, now the UK s most endangered mammal, and are used by otters. Wetland drainage in the past has reduced the amount of standing water in the eastern lowlands. The seasonally flooding Kinbeachie Loch, for example, between Culbokie and Cullicudden, was drained as recently as the 1960s. Drainage of smaller 22 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland

29 ponds and cultivation up to the edge of burns and ditches has also removed habitat for many riparian species and increased the chance of run-off eroding or washing out those that remain. Watercourses of all kinds, from rivers to drainage ditches, provide corridors along which the area s low density population of otters can move and feed. They often leave evidence in spring, through their droppings, of frogs and toads that have been caught as they gather for communal mating. Loch Kinellan Where small areas of standing, relatively nutrientrich fresh water do remain, the benefits for wildlife can be excellent. Loch Kinellan beside Strathpeffer and the glacial ponds at Muir of Ord, home to colonies of great crested newts Triturus cristatus, are classic examples. But even tiny patches of marshy ground or standing water can support plants such as ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi and provide opportunities for common frogs Rana temporaria, toads Bufo bufo and palmate newts Triturus helveticus to spawn or dragonflies and damselflies to breed. In the west, the Achanalt Marshes Special Protection Area is an important part of the most extensive river valley floodplain in the area. Varied fen and marsh habitats here provide nesting scope for a range of wildlfowl and wader species. Relatively food-rich waters: Thanks very largely to Loch Ussie, the largest relatively food rich (mesotrophic) water body in Ross and Cromarty (East), the area has an impressive tally of pondweeds on its local list. Nine different species grow in Loch Ussie, including the rare Shetland pondweed Potamogeton rutilus among a wide array of other water plants. Fringing sedge beds and shore communities support species such as bladder sedge Carex vesicaria and pillwort Pilularia globulifera. The largest eutrophic (high nutrient status) water body in the area is Loch Eye, which is generally considered to have originally been mesotrophic (intermediate nutrient status) but has suffered from nutrient enrichment through human activities on the surrounding land and faeces from its wildfowl population. The loch and its surrounds support a wide range of plant communities, but its prime value in biodiversity terms is as a winter roosting site for numbers of waterbirds, especially whooper swans and greylag geese. Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland Woodland stream, Drummondreach oakwood Objectives To maintain favourable water quality status in all water bodies and minimise diffuse pollution. To keep lochs and rivers in as natural a state as possible, with no barriers to fish migration and improved flow rates on dammed river sections. To retain and enhance all existing areas of wetland. To promote the use of best practice guides and professional advice from government agencies, and reduce any negative impacts of forestry, agriculture or other industrial discharges on freshwater habitats. To recreate salmon spawning and nursery areas in the lower Rivers Conon and Alness. To promote the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which supports responsible recreational use of freshwater lochs and rivers. To raise awareness of the importance of wetland and open water habitats, and encourage local pride in the value of the high quality freshwater environment. To promote a holistic approach to freshwater conservation by encouraging co-operation between land and water users through the development of catchment management plans and other initiatives. 23

30 Main Issues 2.1 Population decline in Atlantic salmon Issue: Atlantic salmon has suffered huge declines across its world range in recent decades. Reasons for this are complex, but are likely to include factors such as deep-sea trawling at wintering grounds and changes in water temperature and salinity due to global warming that are far beyond the scope of local action for biodiversity. Until recently, agricultural prices have meant it was worthwhile to maintain flood banks and field drains, which have canalised rivers and removed spawning habitat for salmon and sea trout. Atlantic salmon jumping Restore fish passes and reduce barriers to fish and other wildlife to give access to spawning grounds upstream, including the maintenance of appropriate flow rates in flow-altered rivers. (Suggested partners: Scottish & Southern Energy, District Salmon Fishery Boards, SNH, land managers) Raise awareness of the issues surrounding river management for salmon amongst anglers and land managers, and implement Catch and Release as a management policy. (Suggested partners: District Salmon Fishery Boards, land managers, angling groups) Develop the existing education package and disseminate best practice amongst all water users, e.g. on field ditch management and pollution for farmers and crofters, on the non-use of live bait for anglers. (Suggested partners: Cromarty Firth Fisheries Trust, District Salmon Fishery Boards, SNH, SAC, Highland FWAG, WWF) Develop fishery and catchment management plans for each river system in the region, and carry out a demonstration project on river and loch bank management, including the use of fencing buffer strips and planting of broadleaves to prevent bank erosion. (Suggested partners: SEPA, SNH, Highland Council Planning & Development Service, District Salmon Fishery Boards, WWF) Opportunity: Those fish that do return to the river where they were spawned can be helped by conservation measures within the local area. This could include an assessment of the usefulness of existing structures that present barriers to fish movement, and the feasibility of allowing unrestricted fish access to river reaches that have been inaccessible in recent decades. Current projects: Scottish and Southern Energy have installed fish passes with counters at their hydro dams. The Conon District Salmon Fishery Board carries out salmon monitoring, restocking and tagging on an ongoing basis, and has carried out a channel restoration and riparian woodland project to improve spawning habitat at Dunglass Island on the lower section of the river. Future actions: Demonstrate the importance of freshwater habitats through practical projects, e.g. restoration of spawning burns for wild trout and salmon. Dunglass Island channel restoration and riparian woodland creation project might be a good demonstration project. (Suggested partners: Conon District Salmon Fishery Board, SNH, land owners) Reconstruction of spawning habitat 2.2 Acidification and nutrient enrichment Issue: The planting of large blocks of conifers in the uplands in the past has released soils and silt into the burns and rivers, silting up spawning beds. In some of the burns, the effect of afforestation has resulted in an increase in the acidity of the water. Returning salmon can use burns that are less than a metre wide, and many of these burns are in or near forest plantations and still suffer from acidification in the winter, which kills the salmon s eggs. 24 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland

31 In lowland Ross-shire, agricultural intensification and an increase in building development has resulted in an increase in fertilisers and pesticides reaching our watercourses through run-off from fields and in sewage treatment works and discharges from pipes. Even in small quantities, sheep dip can cause serious damage to freshwater invertebrates and disrupt the whole food chain. The use of enclosed fields after dipping reduces the risk of watercourses becoming contaminated. Opportunities: The Water Framework Directive encourages the development of catchment management plans, and its implementation through the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will increase control on pressures affecting water quality, particularly from diffuse pollution sources. Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) are also being promoted in new developments, which will benefit water quality. The Forestry Commission has produced Forest & Water Guidelines, which give best practice guidelines for forestry management to protect watercourses. Farmers and crofters are required to follow the PEPFAA Code (Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity) and useful information and guides on reducing agricultural pollution are available from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Agricultural College (Dos and Don ts Guide and the Four Point Plan Straightforward guidance for livestock farmers to minimise pollution and benefit your business). Future actions: Ensure water quality improvements are in line with SEPA s targets. (Suggested partners: SEPA, Scottish Water, agricultural and industrial businesses) Continue to promote practical guidance for forestry plantings and new developments taking place near watercourses. Advise businesses on the legal requirements for discharges of substances near or into water, and demonstrate how sustainable practices can make economic sense to businesses. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, Scottish Executive, SEPA, Highland Council Planning & Development Service, SNH, SAC, Highland FWAG) Promote adoption of SUDS principles (such as swales, infiltration basins, detention / retention ponds, wetlands, reedbeds) in new developments. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Planning & Development Service, SEPA, SNH, developers) Safeguard the nutrient status of Loch Ussie and Loch Eye, and ensure that good-quality long-term data is available to assess the nutrient status of these lochs. (Suggested partners: SEPA, SNH) Produce and enact Farm Waste Water Management Plans for some of the larger agricultural units, following the pilot project undertaken as part of the River Spey Catchment Management Plan project. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SEPA, Highland FWAG, SAC, land managers) The production of farm water management plans as recommended by WWF would give simple, low cost ways in which farmers can make savings on fertilisers and other agrochemicals, reduce pollution and soil loss and also improve wildlife habitats. Creation of buffer strips along water courses in particular, can give large biodiversity benefits. Buffer strips can reduce erosion by keeping stock from bank sides and by trapping sediments and chemicals before they are washed into rivers. Loch Kinellan in winter Current projects: The Scottish Environment Protection Agency currently monitors the quality of our larger rivers and lochs. SEPA also regulates all discharges from water treatment works, farm wastes and industrial effluent. 2.3 Lack of information on freshwater species Issue: There is a lack of information on the presence, extent and management requirements of freshwater plants, mammals, invertebrates and fish within the Ross and Cromarty (East) area. Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland 25

32 Opportunity: Scottish Environment Protection Agency currently monitors the larger watercourses in the area for invertebrates, though data is at Family level only. Under the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, SEPA s monitoring of freshwater flora and fauna is likely to increase, particularly to cover lochs much more than at present. Current projects: The Conon District Salmon Fishery Board and Scottish Fisheries Co-ordination Centre have carried out habitat surveys of all river systems running into the Cromarty Firth. Since 1996, the Conon DSFB has undertaken annual electro-fishing surveys to determine the distribution of species and densities of juvenile salmonids. With a small grant from the Highland Biodiversity Project, members of the Muir of Ord Environmental Group have purchased tools to help them protect and enhance their local area, which is home to the great crested newt. SNH has drawn up a Management Plan to help conserve the population of great crested newts living on a series of ponds near the village. The area s freshwater pearl mussel population has been surveyed and Scottish Natural Heritage uses the results to guide any river engineering works requiring planning permission. SNH and the Conon DSFB are carrying out a lamprey survey in 2003 and 2004, and it is hoped that the results will feed into river management. Investigate the biodiversity value of a selection of standing waters including reservoirs, large lochs, hill lochs and farm ponds. Farm ponds are a scarce resource in the area, but could make a significant contribution to biodiversity and the population strength of amphibians and wetland birds. (Suggested partners: SNH, SEPA, RSPB Scotland, Highland Biological Recording Group) Raise awareness of the biodiversity value of our rivers and lochs, focusing on salmon, trout, lamprey species and other freshwater fish that have been little studied. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council Ranger Service, District Salmon Fishery Boards) Use farm and forestry grant schemes to encourage land managers to create riverside woodlands, salmon spawning grounds and wetland areas. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, Forestry Commission, Highland FWAG, SAC, land managers) Improve understanding of the biodiversity of river gravels through survey work. (Suggested partners: SNH, District Salmon Fishery Boards) Conduct a Daubenton s bat survey. (Suggested partners: Inverness Bat Group, Bat Conservation Trust, Highland Biological Recording Group, SNH) Raise awareness of habitat management for species such as great crested newts through workshops and field visits. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Ranger Service, SNH) Encourage volunteers to survey and map road crossings and accessibility of culverts for e.g. frogs, toads and otters, and install suitable signage to warn drivers of the hazard to wildlife in these areas. Blocked culverts can obstruct safe passage and make animals risk road crossings, so pass this information on to roadside managers to enable problems to be rectified. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council Transport and Ranger Services, BEAR Scotland, Highland Biological Recording Group, local community groups) Fairy Glen, Rosemarkie Future actions: Undertake an inventory of existing freshwater survey data to encourage sharing of data between agencies and to highlight the needs for additional data gathering. Make use of electronic map data technology to link data sets wherever possible. Once the gaps have been identified, find funding to help fill them and translate the information into habitat creation or management works. (Suggested partners: SNH, SEPA, District Salmon Fishery Boards) Toad 26 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland

33 2.4 Invasive non-native species Issue: Some non-native plant species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed are very invasive and choke out native vegetation. These species often spread along rivers, making them particularly difficult for individual land managers to control. A more recent introduction, Crassula helmsii is now appearing in many lochs. American mink have spread throughout the Highlands and prey on small mammals like water voles. Non-native fish introductions could be a problem should pike fishing with live bait become popular in the area. This issue is already the most significant threat to freshwater biodiversity in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Genetic issues relating to the introduction of native but not locally sourced species may be as significant as non-native introductions. Future actions: Devise a strategy for the survey and then eradication or control of invasive non-native plant species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed at river catchment level. (Suggested partners: SNH, SEPA, Highland Council, District Salmon Fishery Boards, land managers) Develop a strategy for controlling mink, and investigate the impacts of mink on the water vole population. (Suggested partners: SNH, SEPA, RSPB Scotland) Encourage community-led projects to control or eradicate invasive species such as giant hogweed or Japanese knotweed from restricted areas, e.g. giant hogweed at Milton, by Invergordon. (Suggested partners: Community Groups, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, SNH) Discourage any future introductions of non-native species such as pike, and investigate the popularity and extent of fishing with live bait in the area. (Suggested partners: SNH, District Salmon Fishery Boards, fishery managers, fishing clubs & tackle shops) 2.5 Lack of wetland habitats Issue: Many of the wetlands of lowland Ross-shire and the Black Isle have been drained for agriculture, forestry or building development. This has resulted in a loss of habitats for wading birds and wetland plants in this area. Achanalt Marshes Opportunity: Further areas of wetland could be created on floodplains through e.g. the Rural Stewardship Scheme (RSS). Current projects: RSPB Scotland has carried out a wet grassland creation project at Nigg Bay for wading birds. Several farmers have included the maintenance or creation of wetland areas for wading birds in their RSS works. Future actions: Ensure no further loss of wetland habitat through drainage in Ross and Cromarty (East). (Suggested partners: Highland Council, SNH, Scottish Executive, Forestry Commission) Carry out wetland creation on the floodplains of the River Conon catchment. (Suggested partners: SNH, land managers) 2.6 Development threats Issue: Existing hydro schemes have impacted on river flows in all the main Conon catchment rivers, leading to a loss of alder regeneration and salmon spawning areas. In addition, some road crossings have created obstructions to fish migration, resulting in a loss of spawning habitat for migratory fish. Opportunity: It is likely that most new large-scale developments will have implications for local Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland 27

34 biodiversity, but these ought to be identified and addressed through tools such as Project Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment. There is extensive consultation on new hydro schemes to minimise environmental impact and protect biodiversity as far as possible. Opportunities exist to work with Scottish and Southern Energy and other hydro developers to mitigate the effects of hydro development on biodiversity. Also, to address the problem of road crossings and other man-made obstacles to fish migration and causes of habitat fragmentation. Future actions: Promote and adhere to Government guidance and recognised best practice for road crossings etc. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, BEAR Scotland, SEPA, SNH) Carry out a computer-based study to identify areas of river within Easter Ross that are vulnerable or sensitive to habitat or species loss through hydro development, and use the information gained to target hydro schemes to areas where adverse effects are minimal. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council, renewable energy companies) Loch Achnacloich 28 Chapter 2: River, Loch & Wetland

35 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land Key features: The following list highlights the key features of our agricultural biodiversity, the habitats and species that make this area so special and distinct in ecological terms. Major feeding area for internationally important flocks of greylag geese, pink-footed geese and whooper swans Home to world s northernmost resident group of barn owls Main habitat for Scotland s original reintroduced population of red kites Habitat for a range of arable weeds such as cornflower, now scarce in other parts of Britain and Ireland Habitat for the principal population of tree sparrows in northern Scotland Mixed farms support nationally declining starlings (helped by cattle-grazed pasture), finches and buntings (helped by availability of seeds in brassica crops) Drystone dykes and other long-established boundaries, providing habitat for plants such as ferns and corridors for movement of small mammals Patches of gorse and scrub woodland, giving cover for Scottish wildcats and small birds Uncultivated field margins, supporting grey partridges and giving feeding opportunities for invertebrates such as butterflies Photos of: Ploughing field (Munlochy), Red kite, Farmland near Marybank, Gorse and Barn owl. Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land 29

36 Farm and croft land Introduction The lowlands that flank the inner parts of the Moray Firth support some of the best arable land in Scotland. Within the farm and croft areas, there are important concentrations or occurrences of nationally valued species, and echoes of a long history of linkage between the area s agriculture and wildlife. People have farmed here since Neolithic times, some 6,000 years ago, and there is still evidence of those millennia of human involvement in some parts. Chambered cairns, a scatter of Viking place names, post-highland Clearance croft sites and the straight-edged fields of the 18th and 19th century enclosures often sit close to the working machinery of 21st century agriculture. The old smallholdings with their mixed oat, brassica and grass fields and their reliance on livestock have all but disappeared from the farming lands of the Black Isle, Ross and the Fearn peninsula. They have been replaced with larger units and bigger fields, growing arable crops and silage. This change has reduced the habitats available for many species. Greater efficiency in weed control and harvesting methods leaves less and less food for over-wintering farmland birds such as buntings and finches. Farmland and forestry by Loch Ussie There have been major changes in the patterns of production within the area s farmland and croftland since the middle of the 20th century. Prior to the 1950s, oats were the most widely grown crop in a local farmscape that included a large acreage of rotational grass, turnips and swedes, barley, some wheat (especially in the Nigg and Fearn lowlands) and other crops. Now winter cereals, oil seed rape, pasture and silage fields predominate. Farm units and fields have become larger, while wet areas have been reduced through drainage. This has reduced the variety and extent of both habitats and feeding opportunities for farmland wildlife. At the 30 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land

37 same time, herbicides and pesticides have depleted arable weeds and further reduced food availability for a range of invertebrates and birds. Despite these changes, the farmland and croftland of Ross and Cromarty (East) retains a significant wildlife interest, with potential for increase and expansion in the future. Recent changes in the Common Agricultural Policy have redistributed payments to farmers so that managing farmland for wildlife has become financially beneficial once again. Local farmers have been quick to take up the opportunity to increase biodiversity on their holdings through the Rural Stewardship Scheme and other incentives. Each of these farming types is linked to a distinctive landscape pattern, such as the lines of mature, deciduous trees around geometric fields in the estatelinked farms, which in turn provides opportunities for a range of wildlife. Old buildings and dykes are also an important biodiversity resource. Bats, barn owls, swallows and house martins use old buildings to roost and nest in, and great crested newts use old dykes, walls and stone heaps to shelter in. Farmland near Marybank Farm above Cromarty Firth, near Dingwall Habitats Open, farmed slopes, with fields used either as pasture or for barley growing (with smaller amounts of potatoes, turnips and other brassica crops) is a feature of much of the eastern rim of the area. This includes a band of land that stretches from the inner part of the Cromarty Firth along the Black Isle, from Nigg Bay north along the coastal margin to Tarbat Ness, and a small area around Strathpeffer. Whilst hedgerows are not a particularly prominent or frequent part of the local farming and crofting scene, they are present in some areas, e.g. around Strathpeffer / Dingwall and along the A9 between Invergordon and Tain. They are also important features of historic gardens and designed landscapes across Easter Ross and the Black Isle. Intensive farming, with large arable fields and farm holdings is concentrated in the very low-lying area between Nigg and the Morrich More. Enclosed farm landscapes associated with estates are situated on the flat river plains at the head of the Beauly and Cromarty Firth. Hedgerows, road verges, stone walls, set-aside land, uncultivated field margins and poorly drained land provide oases for biodiversity within this landscape. Croftland, in contrast, is sparsely distributed on poorer, steeper ground on valley sides, and so is more associated with bog, moor and hill areas than are other kinds of farming. Croftland can also provide diversity because of its small inbye fields and less intensive nature. Farmland in late summer, Strathpeffer Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land 31

38 Dykes, hedgerows, roadside verges, drainage ditches, burns, lines of trees and riparian woodland can all be important habitats within agricultural landscapes that link up existing areas of biodiversity value, making them more valuable to wildlife. These habitats are sometimes referred to as wildlife corridors. Red kite Gorse With its distinctive yellow, coconut smelling blooms which dominate the landscape from early summer, gorse Ulex europaeus is a common site along exposed coastal sites, along roadsides and field margins in Easter Ross. This prickly shrub is extremely hardy, even though it is highly palatable to browsing animals, burns fiercely and is susceptible to frost. Its nitrogen fixing capacity allows growth under conditions of extreme infertility. When coppiced it regrows rapidly and following fire, seed germination leads to high densities of seedlings. It is a source of both valuable habitat and food to a wide variety of wildlife, but if left unchecked by grazing or other measures it can sometimes encroach on other locally important habitats such as species rich heaths and grasslands. It has potential for land reclamation and has been used as a hedge plant and for binding soil on dry sandy banks. Farmland, Black Isle & Cromarty Firth Species The eastern lowlands of Ross and Cromarty, where much of the land is given over to agriculture, make a huge contribution to the biodiversity of the whole area. There are many flowering plants and grasses, for example, which occur only in these areas. Among the plants associated with the farmed lowlands, a number of species that could be classed as arable weeds stand out as having national importance. Once widespread, such species have slumped in many areas due to changing patterns of farming and use of modern herbicides. Yet they can often provide striking colour within fields and a source of food for seed-eating birds and farmland invertebrates, such as beetles and butterflies. Cornflower Centaurea cyanus is one of these arable weeds that still clings on in the area. Although not native, it is an archaeophyte, known to have been present in Britain since the Iron Age, more than 2,000 years ago. Corn marigold Chrysanthemum segetum is another farmland archaeophyte that is still clinging on in the east of the area, as is corn chamomile Anthemis arvensis. Weed seeds within farm and croftland are a particular benefit to small birds such as finches and buntings. The linnet Carduelis cannabina is more dependent on weed seeds than other finches. It is widespread and fairly common in the eastern farmland, as is the yellowhammer Emberiza citronella. There is also a pocket of goldfinch Carduelis carduelis abundance around the Beauly and Cromarty Firths and the Black Isle, reflecting the widespread availability of thistles within local farmland. Large flocks of twite Acanthis flavirostris also benefit from these habitats during the winter months. 32 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land

39 The corn bunting Milaria calandra was also once common in the area but has now almost died out. Reasons for this are likely to include a loss of habitat diversity within farmland and croft land, leading to a restriction of winter food sources. Availability of stubbles that still hold some grain is also important for the internationally significant numbers of greylag geese Anser anser that visit the Black Isle, Cromarty and Dornoch Firths in autumn and winter. Together with Icelandic pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus the greylags feed extensively within farmland stubbles, and so could be adversely affected by changes in stubble availability. At the same time, increasing numbers of grey geese place extra demands on local farmers through their consumption and trampling of winterand spring-sown cereals and some permanent grasslands. Curlew Lapwing Vanellus vanellus are still fairly common on the farmland between Nigg and the Dornoch Firth including near the Seaboard Villages, as are curlew Numenius arquata, but they are now scarce on the Black Isle away from the coastal margin. Numbers of snipe Gallinago gallinago (present on both farmland and croft land) and redshank Tringa tetanus are also very low. The area from the inner Beauly Firth, through the Black Isle to the Fearn Peninsula is now unusual within the entire Highlands and Islands for the strength of its breeding tree sparrow Passer montanus population. Largely absent in the rest of northern Scotland, this bird of lowland farmland has undergone significant declines in many other parts of its British range, but continues (for reasons not yet known) to hold its own in Easter Ross. Pink-footed geese Within the lifetime of older farmers in the area both black grouse Tetrao tetrix and capercaillie Tetrao urogallus used oat stooks left standing at the edge of fields with wooded margins. This practice, carried out to provide quarry for shooting, has now been taken up again using an old mechanical binder, within the Cairngorms National Park. It has proved particularly beneficial to small farmland seed-eating birds, as well as providing new feeding opportunities for rare grouse. Corncrake Crex crex also used to breed in the area up until the mid-20th century, but now sadly has disappeared. Improved drainage of farmland in the area has been another feature of recent decades (cf. the 1960s drainage of the major seasonally flooding Black Isle wetland, Kinbeachie Loch, mentioned in Chapter 2). This has reduced feeding and breeding opportunities for wading birds. The lowlands from Muir of Ord to the Fearn Peninsula, including the north side of the Black Isle, is home to the world s northernmost significant breeding group of barn owls Tyto alba. This beautiful white owl was once a common feature of farmland and other areas of rough grazing in Britain, but has suffered huge declines as a result of agricultural intensification and habitat loss. Work in different parts of Britain has demonstrated the value of both uncultivated field margins and road verges to farmland birds and to plants. The grey partridge Perdix perdix, which is still present in small numbers throughout most of the farmed eastern lowlands here, is one native species that benefits. The population of brown hares has fluctuated in recent years, and farmers cutting silage or hay should be encouraged to cut from the inside out rather than the outside in, to allow the hares to escape the mower. Despite the long history and current intensity of human settlement in the Black Isle, cats of wildcattype appearance still occur in the wild. They are currently under threat from interbreeding with feral (or even domestic) cats. Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land 33

40 Main issues 3.1 Industry problems Issue: Due to the current economic problems facing the agricultural industry, the rural population is declining and with it we are experiencing a closure of rural services, reduction in work force and loss of traditional land management skills. Fields and indeed farms themselves have got bigger, and we have seen a reduction in the diversity of crops grown and animals reared, which has reduced the number of habitats available to wildlife. Sheep in snow, Mountgerald, near Dingwall Objectives In marginal areas, farm and croft abandonment has led to a loss in biodiversity through e.g. encroachment of rushes, heather, gorse and scrub on previously herb-rich pastures. To work towards a future where land managers are encouraged and enabled to enrich the environment in harmony with production. To implement whole farm plans that combine business and environmental objectives. To reward good management (best practice) through better-funded and more flexible agrienvironmental schemes, and through the market place by securing a premium for locally produced goods. To maintain and enhance existing areas of wildlife habitat and encourage the creation and maintenance of wildlife corridors such as hedges, plant-rich old walls and unsprayed field margins. To target conservation schemes at species most under threat, and encourage cattle grazing of existing habitats. To bridge the gap of education, goodwill and understanding between the agricultural and conservation interests. To increase public understanding of the very real link between agricultural activity and environmental protection. Opportunity: Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform is set to break the link between farming support payments and the production of food. Together with the requirement for farmers to keep land in good agricultural and environmental condition, this could provide opportunities within an area like Ross and Cromarty (East), which already has important farmland qualities. Current projects: The Rural Stewardship Scheme (RSS) is an agri-environmental scheme that supports habitat creation and management and is open to farmers and crofters throughout Scotland. Like its predecessor the Countryside Premium Scheme, the RSS is competitive and the number of entrants is restricted by the overall budget. However, ranking incentives to keep plan costs below 20,000 have led to a greater number of farmers and crofters gaining entry to the scheme. Croft at Knockfarrel, near Dingwall 34 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land

41 Organisations such as Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) provide advice on agri-environmental projects and schemes to farmers and crofters in the area. The RSS operates on a Scotland-wide basis and its prescriptions are not always relevant to agricultural holdings within the Highlands. In addition, information is not readily available about the extent of schemes within Ross and Cromarty (East). Highland FWAG is seeking funding to work with groups of farmers and crofters to encourage uptake of agri-environmental schemes within communities, as greater environmental gains can be had through the submission of joint applications. Future actions: Raise awareness of existing RSS management across the area, and use this information to target future efforts on neighbouring units to increase connectivity and maximise biodiversity benefit. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, Highland FWAG, SAC, SNH, farmers & crofters) Increase links between statutory agencies so that support for biodiversity on land is co-ordinated and any conflicts of interest minimised. (Suggested partners: SEPA, SNH, Scottish Executive) Produce local guidelines to allow the best targeting of RSS prescriptions for priority habitats and species. Highlight areas where the RSS is failing to deliver at a local level and feed this information back to the Scottish Executive. (Suggested partners: Highland FWAG, SAC, SNH, farmers & crofters, Scottish Executive) within the area help to maintain pastures and coastal grazings that can be important habitat for a range of flowering plants and grasses. Traditionally, the insects that feed on cattle dung have also been a boon for birds such as starlings Sturna vulgaris, swallows Hirundo rustica and martins Delichon urbica, although this is less true if powerful worm treatments are used. Opportunity: Detailed survey to identify parts of the area that hold good numbers of the above species could help to direct appropriate subsidies. Future actions: Raise awareness of the link between cattle rearing and biodiversity, and support farmers to remain in livestock where this benefits biodiversity through the Rural Stewardship Scheme and Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, Forestry Commission, Highland FWAG, SAC, National Farmers Union, Scottish Crofting Foundation, farmers & crofters) 3.3 Loss of wet ground Issue: Reduction in wet ground through drainage and tree planting to take advantage of grants is associated with a loss of plants such as marsh orchids, ragged robin Lychnis flos- cuculi and cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis. It also reduces the amount of nesting cover and feeding opportunities for wading birds and ducks and habitat for amphibians. Opportunity: In many cases, restoration of small wetland areas for which there is huge potential here is relatively simple and produces huge bonuses for wildlife. Better targeted Rural Stewardship Scheme prescriptions and, in the wake of CAP reform, appropriately directed agri-environment subsidy allowing for larger schemes where feasible, could be an appropriate way of boosting the area s farmland biodiversity. Current projects: As already mentioned in the River, Loch & Wetland chapter, RSPB Scotland has carried out a wet grassland creation project at Nigg Bay for wading birds. Future actions: Highland cow at Pitmaduthy 3.2 Reduction in cattle numbers Issues: One environmental concern arising out of the CAP Reform is a further shift away from cattle rearing through alterations in subsidy. At present, cattle Encourage farmland wader populations by habitat creation and management in the Straths and Glens. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SNH, SAC, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) Discourage farmers from planting boggy areas with trees. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, Highland FWAG, SAC, farmers & crofters) Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land 35

42 Opportunity: Linkages between different patches of habitat, such as pockets of woodland, can be made easier for many kinds of wildlife by the provision of corridors. Across the eastern lowlands of Ross and Cromarty, there are many opportunities for small changes in farming practice that would produce large benefits for wildlife at field margins and road edges. Ploughing field, Munlochy 3.4 Decline in Spring cropping Issue: Local comment suggests that the amount of winter stubble has been declining in the area, with an increasing amount of winter ploughing and sowing. This should be quantified, since it has important implications for the wintering geese and finches that form part of the area s international wildlife significance. Opportunity: Goose-linked field husbandry here should be considered as a bona fide part of Rural Stewardship. Provision of a wild margin to drainage channels and burns could give potential for many kinds of wildlife to move more freely within agricultural areas. This has particular implications for the water vole Arvicola terrestris, now reckoned to be Britain s most endangered mammal, although it is still present in the area. It would also benefit otters, which are widespread but not commonly seen here and their prey. Current projects: The Black Isle Partnership has produced a report on habitat networks and wildlife corridors entitled Making Space for Wildlife. The project identified opportunities to improve the available habitat and conditions that will allow a range of species to thrive on the Black Isle and, in time, will have better prospects for their expansion and movement between habitats. Current projects: Farmers and crofters can receive payments for planting small areas of crops in Spring through the Rural Stewardship Scheme s unharvested crops and Spring cropping options. Future actions: Carry out a desk study to quantify the loss of winter stubble and the impact upon wintering geese and finches in the area, and feed the results into future agri-environmental schemes. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SNH, RSPB Scotland) Undertake a Wild Bird Cover / Game Crops project where small areas of Spring-sown cereals such as Quinoa are left unharvested as a source of winter cover and food for over-wintering birds such as finches, brambling and yellowhammer. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SNH, Highland FWAG, SAC, farmers & crofters) 3.5 Reduction in boundary habitats Issue: Uncultivated field margins and road verges are important linear assets to biodiversity, which will vanish or be greatly reduced through any further increase in field size, leaching of farm chemicals into watercourses and early mowing of roadside verges. Cromarty Firth from Mountgerald Future actions: Improve field boundaries for wildlife through e.g. greater entry to the Rural Stewardship Scheme. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SAC, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) Encourage farmers and crofters to retain existing field boundaries and leave buffer strips when cultivating land or spraying crops near watercourses. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SAC, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) Encourage farmers and crofters to replace field boundary trees, particularly with elm. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SNH, SAC, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) 36 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land

43 Local wildlife enthusiasts could be well placed to advise on particularly or potentially rich areas (as has been done elsewhere in Scotland) and to work with farmers and Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group to help establish wildlife-friendly stretches. (Suggested partners: local wildlife enthusiasts, Highland Biological Recording Group, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) Ensure local biodiversity is taken into account in local verge mowing and hedge flailing regimes. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland) Undertake a project to collect seed and bulk-up from the remaining native examples rather than promote the sowing of wildflower seed of non-local origin, which could be the final nail in the coffin of the local stock. (Suggested partners: Highland FWAG, SAC, Scottish Executive, SNH, farmers & crofters) Undertake a survey of some commoner arable weed species (e.g. poppies, field pansy) on the Black Isle. (Suggested partners: Black Isle Partnership, Highland Biological Recording Group, Highland FWAG, SAC, land managers, field clubs & community groups) 3.7 Lack of access and awareness Issue: There is a lack of awareness about farm wildlife and management amongst the general public. Opportunity: A number of businesses in the area are involved in the provision of facilities to encourage access to the countryside (e.g. Squarewheels off-road bike hire, Boots & Paddles, Highland Mountainbike Association). Businesses and organisations like these can play a significant role in raising awareness of biodiversity issues. Devil s bit scabious 3.6 Loss of arable weeds Issue: Some of the rarer arable weeds, especially cornflower, are pretty nearly extinct here. In some areas, they still grow within the crop and therefore will be eradicated if the farmer sprays to control other weeds. There is currently no recognition of this in agri-environment schemes such as the RSS, with the result that this national priority species is being lost from our farming landscape. Opportunity: Given the national priority species status afforded to cornflower in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, the area would be well placed to argue for agricultural support specifically targeted at maintaining and boosting this aspect of farmland biodiversity. This could include support for farmers whose holdings includes some long-established nonnatives, such as cornflower and corn marigold, both of which can reduce crop yield but are widely appreciated as part of the local farming scene. Current projects: Brahan Farm by Maryburgh has an active ranger service that introduces visitors and locals to the rich biodiversity of the Seaforth Estate. Future actions: Encourage farms to work with the Royal Highland Educational Trust to foster the links between schools and farms to raise awareness of the benefits to health, food production and wildlife of local agriculture. (Suggested partners: Royal Highland Educational Trust, Highland Council Education Department, Highland Council and Forestry Commission Ranger Services, farmers & crofters) Raise environmental awareness through fostering links between farms and schools generally, enhancing access and agri-tourism projects. (Suggested partners: Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board, Highland Council Education Department, Highland Council and Forestry Commission Ranger Services, farmers & crofters) Future actions: Develop practical solutions for the conservation of these weeds within productive cropping situations. (Suggested partners: Scottish Executive, SAC, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land 37

44 Barn Owl 3.8 Lack of information Issues: Although we have some good information on the location and extent of some of the once-common farmland species, if we are to hold onto these important species we require further information about their habitats and behaviour. For example, we know little about breeding sites and habitats used by barn owls in this area. Opportunities: Survey work to identify breeding sites and better understand the barn owl s habitat use at this northernmost limit of its huge world range should be a high priority. Rows of sheep feeding on turnips Current projects: The Scottish Agricultural College, with some funding from the Highland Biodiversity Project, is providing farmers that have suitable habitats for barn owls and tree sparrows with nest boxes, and advising on siting and maintenance. A paper entitled Diet of Barn Owl in East Ross and East Ness has been published in Scottish Birds, Vol 22, Part 2 (2001). Future actions: Initiate a farmland species surveying project, focusing on a number of initial priorities such as barn owl, and use the results to feed into land management through targeted management projects and initiatives such as the Rural Stewardship Scheme. (Suggested partners: SNH, Scottish Wildlife Trust, local recording groups, SAC, Highland FWAG, farmers & crofters) 38 Chapter 3: Farm & Croft Land

45 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland Key features: The following list highlights the key features of our woodland biodiversity, the habitats and species that make this area so special and distinct in ecological terms. Extensive plantations of Scots pine holding low density populations of native wildlife Resident populations of capercaillie and black grouse Widespread populations of red squirrel, relatively distant from the nearest occurrences of non-native grey squirrel Some of the finest and most extensive bog woodland in Britain Significant areas of ancient woodland One of the most important stands of aspen north of the Great Glen, supporting some very rare invertebrates Gorge woodlands rich in lower plants such as mosses and lichens Floodplain alderwoods Relatively undisturbed coastal native woodland strip along southern Black Isle Developing potential for forest habitat networks Extensive plantations of exotic conifers managed principally for timber production but allowing opportunities for biodiversity to be enhanced Photos of: Red squirrel, Culbokie forest walk, Strathvaich pinewood, Oak woodland and Horse riding along woodland track. Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland 39

46 Forest and woodland Introduction Trees are the backdrop to much of the low ground in the eastern half of the area. They form a major element of the landscape along a line that runs north-east from around Contin to Tain and along the entire Milbuie Ridge of the Black Isle. There is also significant forest cover stretching far to the west along Strath Bran and Strath Conon, around the western slopes of Ben Wyvis and north-west up Glen Glass and Strath Rusdale. Elsewhere, including in the lowland farmland areas, there are isolated, small pockets of woodland including some native woodland remnants. The nature and structure of the woodlands in Ross and Cromarty (East) reflect national forest policies and land use issues spanning more than a century, including: the clearance of native woodland for grazing throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries; the development of plantation forests on private estates in the early 19th century; the rise of the Highland sporting estate in the Victorian era; the formation of the Forestry Commission to establish a strategic reserve of timber following World War One; further development of this reserve following World War Two; tax incentives for afforestation during the mid to late 20th century; and the introduction of grants to encourage the establishment of new native woodland in the 1990s. These are all factors that have had a direct influence on the woodlands that exist in Ross and Cromarty (East) today. Strathconon A large proportion of the area s woodland is managed under a long established regime for timber 40 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland

47 production and contributes significantly to the economy of the area by providing employment in woodland management, harvesting and haulage. As well as providing the raw material for a range of wood processing companies both locally and outwith the Highland area, these woodlands have provided a crucial habitat for woodland species. Both twinflower Linnaea borealis and one-flowered wintergreen Moneses uniflora once occurred in association with Scots pines in Ross and Cromarty (East). These species have not been seen here in recent years, but another pine-linked boreal forest plant, creeping lady s tresses Goodyera repens is still widespread. Ross and Cromarty (East) is well placed to enhance forest and woodland biodiversity through sensitive management of the existing native woodland relics and mature plantations, the developing post-war plantations, and the recently established native woodlands. Ferns and foxgloves Rogie Falls Habitats & species Planted woodland: A significant part of the area s forest cover is in plantations managed by the Forestry Commission for timber production. There are also considerable expanses of longer-established estate woodland. In both these cases, many kinds of non-native conifers (including widespread larches Larix species, firs Abies species, and non-native pines Pinus species) have been planted. There is also a large amount of Scots pine Pinus sylvestris in both state and privately owned woodlands. The area has international significance for its Scots pine and associated bog woodland at Monadh Mor and Pitmaduthy. However, the Scots pine plantations outwith these sites also include areas that support internationally scarce wildlife, including priority species for biodiversity action. The area s planted pinewoods also have crucial importance for Scotland s declining capercaillie Tetrao urogallus. Conservation work aimed at reversing the severe downturn in capercaillie fortunes is being carried out in both estate and publicly owned woodlands in the area. Other priority woodland bird species associated with Scots pine here are the Scottish crossbill Loxia scotica (difficult to distinguish from the more frequently seen common crossbill Loxia curvirostra) and the crested tit Parus cristatus. The crested tit is the rarest British tit so, although it is much less abundant in Ross and Cromarty (East) than in the UK strongholds of Strathspey, Deeside and Moray, the presence of this little woodland bird is nonetheless a special bonus for the area. Old pines with spreading tops are a typical nest site for the area s increasing number of breeding ospreys Pandion haliaetus. These birds, which feed along the margins of the Firths or over lochs and rivers and often fly over farmland to reach their nests, are an attractive living link between several contrasting habitats in the area. Plantations, estate woodland and old estate copses provide nesting areas for the reintroduced red kite, which feeds predominately in the farmland and crofting areas. Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland 41

48 Another popular species is the red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, which is widespread in the area s woodlands. This was once shot locally as a pest species, but is now valued. The Highland region is the only part of Britain with no non-native grey squirrels, and so the red squirrels within our woodlands, relatively central within the wider region, have great significance in terms of their distance from the nearest greys. Conifer woodlands also have resident pine martens Martes martes. Once almost driven to extinction in Britain, this species has made a gradual come back in the Highlands in the 20th and early 21st centuries. The Scottish wildcat Felis sylvestris is also sparsely spread across the area, including in Black Isle forestry plantations. Two UK BAP priority ant species, the hairy wood ant Formica lugubris and the Scottish wood ant Formica aquilonia also occur. The Mason Bee Osmia uncinata The mason bee Osmia uncinata is found (in the UK) only in the Highlands of Scotland. It is dependent on the pollen of Bird s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus to stock its nests with food for the growing larvae. O. uncinata is an insect of Scots Pine forests, and has been found recently in Easter Ross. Bilberry bumblebee Bombus monticola Semi-natural woodland: Upland birch Betula pendula woods can be substantial, such as those on the south side of Loch Glass, in Strath Vaich and Strathconon. Some of the trees in such woods can be over two hundred years old, with tree holes and dead wood providing shelter, breeding and feeding opportunities for a wide range of creatures, fungi, ferns and mosses. The bee is only active on warm days from May to July, and any bee with a reddish-brown thorax and black abdomen feeding at Bird s-foot Trefoil in the sun, in suitable habitat in the Highlands may well be one. The story of O. uncinata is a fascinating tale of interaction involving two plants, three insects, and the local miniclimate. First, the Bird s-foot Trefoil pollen source must be present in an open sunlit situation. Old Scots Pines with a thick corky bark are used by a boring beetle Rhagium inquisitor to rear their larvae. When these leave, Osmia will use the vacant galleries in warm, south-facing, open situations to build their brood cells. If the pines do not face south, the nests will not warm up enough for the larvae to develop. Finally, a parasitic wasp Chrysura hirsuta, one of the ruby-tailed wasps, lays its eggs in the Osmia cells, its larvae feeding on the tissues of the Osmia larva. This is a splendid illustration of interdependence between organisms and their habitat, and shows what really lies behind that buzz-word biodiversity. Murdo Macdonald Highland Biological Recording Group Oak woodland, Drummondreach Oakwoods are very restricted in the area. The only sizeable extent of sessile (Quercus petraea) oakwood is at Achilty. This is part of a system of woods that includes Scots pine, birch, oak and one of the most important stands of aspen Populus tremula north of the Great Glen. A rare cranefly Gnophomyia viridipennis has been recorded from aspen here. On the Black Isle, the wester oakwood at Drummondreach has a diverse ground flora that includes moschatel Adoxa moschatellina and is a former site for herb paris Paris quadrifolia. Although stands are rare, there are scattered pockets of aspen throughout the area. Aspen woodland supports a unique living community containing 42 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland

49 many rare and scarce species of moths, flies, butterflies, bryophytes, lichens and fungi that occur in very few other locations within the UK. Aspen provides a potential habitat for the aspen hoverfly Hammerschmidtia ferruginea, the dark-bordered beauty moth Epione vespertaria and the aspen bracket fungus Phellinus tremulae. Objectives To protect, enhance and expand semi-natural woodland areas. To encourage the creation and management of riparian woodlands. Aspen bracket fungus, Loch Morie Mixed pine and broadleaved woodlands still survive along many river gorges. As well as flowering plants like small cow-wheat Melampyrum sylvaticum, these are important habitats for many kinds of ferns, mosses, liverworts and lichens that thrive in moist, shaded conditions. The southern coastal fringes of the Black Isle east of Rosemarkie also have long stretches of semi-natural woodland along the ancient sea-cliff line. Inland of the present day shore and seaward of the farmland, this woodland provides a relatively undisturbed refuge for wild plants, birds and animals. To create diverse new woodlands that contribute positively to both the environment and the local economy. To develop woodland corridors and forest habitat networks. To support the use of locally sourced timber materials for developments. To encourage opportunities for the greater enjoyment of woodlands. To encourage greater community involvement in woodland management through community woodland groups. Alder Alnus glutinosa woodland along the river Conon is an important relic of formerly extensive floodplain woodland. The alderwood at the Talich, near Hill of Fearn, is a surprisingly large but isolated survivor of this woodland type. The alder-and-ashdominated woodland and scrub at Conon Islands, at the mouth of the river Conon is a classic example of gradual habitat change from woodland through scrub and freshwater fens to saltmarsh. Such a dynamic alluvial forest system is now a European rarity. The national priority Biodiversity Action Plan species juniper Juniperus communis ssp communis is found in many pine and birch woodlands in the area, as well as forming scrub and as isolated plants in many places. Woodland tracks can provide a good recreational resource for walking, cycling and horse riding Main Issues 4.1 Woodland fragmentation Issue: On the whole, the woodlands of Easter Ross and the Black Isle are reasonably well connected. However, woodland types are fragmented and many of the surviving havens of native woodland biodiversity in the area are isolated: oakwood remnants, coastal scrub and woodland, riverine and floodplain alderwoods, are often separated from each other by farmland. This makes it difficult for wildlife to pass between the woods, and so reduces the number of species that each area can support. Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland 43

50 Opportunity: The area has huge scope for creation of forest habitat networks by linking existing woodlands that have surviving elements of native biodiversity. Work towards this has already begun in the Black Isle forests, for example through removal of exotic conifers and encouragement of native trees along major watercourses between Scots pine areas. Expansion of such networking on Forestry Commission ground and beyond to link with estate woodlands, would be an important next step. Creation of forest habitat networks in the area could also involve restoration and creation of new native woodlands on ground that is at present moorland, grassland or under crops. Change of use of some corridors of land from farming to forestry could effectively link some of these relics with the wider area, increasing opportunities for expansion of many different species. In this context, it is worth noting that the finest surviving oakwood on the Black Isle, at Drumondreach, is largely confined for much of its area to a corridor only tens of metres wide in places. Current projects: The European Union LIFE Capercaillie Project is helping to create and manage existing pinewood habitats to conserve the Highland capercaillie population. Semi-natural woodlands across the area are being expanded and brought into positive management for biodiversity benefit by land managers, with support from the Forestry Commission s Woodland Grant and Woodland Improvement Grant Schemes (now incorporated into the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme). Future actions: Expand the forest habitat network work currently taking place on the Black Isle and elsewhere by creating linkages with estate woodlands and encouraging some corridors of farmland to convert to new native woodlands. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, SNH, Scottish Executive, woodland advisers & managers) Identify areas of biodiversity importance for e.g. coastal cliff species along the south-eastern coast of the Black Isle between Rosemarkie and Cromarty, and protect them from further fragmentation e.g. from forestry planting, and consider removing some of the forestry. (Suggested partners: Hiighland Biological Recording Group, Black Isle Partnership, Forestry Commission, land managers) Conon woodlands 4.2 Lack of broadleaved riparian woodland Issue: There is a general lack of riparian (river-bank) broadleaved woodland, especially in the upland areas. These trees are important as their roots help stabilise the banks of rivers and burns, they provide valuable shade during the summer, they support large numbers of invertebrates which in turn feed fish and other aquatic animals, and in autumn their leaves fall into the water and get broken down to provide more food for the aquatic food chain. As well as eutrophication (enrichment) issues on lowland, upland freshwater habitats may be artificially oligotrophic (food poor). This can be caused by lack of riparian woodland and reduced numbers of migratory fish carcasses, which are often the main importer of phosphorus into freshwater habitats. Opportunity: Opportunities exist to restructure plantations, remove conifers from tributaries and plant broadleaves through tools like the Forestry Commission s Forest Design Plans and similar private sector initiatives. The wet woodland work already underway through another EU LIFE project could be extended, working with groups such as Scottish Native Woodlands and local riparian owners. Current projects: Scottish Native Woodlands is currently drawing together a funding bid for Heritage Lottery Funding to improve the coverage of riparian woodland. The Forestry Commission has published Forest Design Plans for its woodlands that propose increased riverside deciduous tree planting over the next ten years. Tributaries of the River Bran have been fenced and planted with alder. 44 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland

51 Future actions: Undertake further projects to plant or regenerate riparian woodlands. (Suggested partners: Scottish Native Woodlands, Forestry Commission, woodland advisers, land managers) Support the inclusion of riparian woodland in future forestry grant schemes and long-term forest plans. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, woodland advisers, land managers) 4.3 Restructuring woodlands Issue: Due to market demands and site conditions, most plantations in the area are managed on a clearfell system whereby blocks of land are planted with one or two conifer species, and then thinned and felled at the same time. There is a lack of continuity of habitat for the species that have come to inhabit the forest and in the past, conifers were planted next to watercourses and little internal space or deadwood was left within the forest, both important features for biodiversity. elements mentioned above, and are moving towards a continuous cover system. Forest Plans for private woodlands are now including smaller scale felling areas and continuous cover forestry. Future actions: Encourage woodland managers to restructure existing woodlands and move towards a continuous cover system through schemes such as the SFGS. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, woodland advisers, woodland managers) Encourage land managers to replace old trees within policy woodlands and parklands as they fall or are removed, as these trees often provide an important habitat for many species. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, woodland advisers, woodland managers) Maintain old growth trees, which are important for nesting raptors. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, woodland managers) 4.4 Reduced regeneration potential Issue: The natural regeneration of semi-natural woodland is currently limited by grazing and browsing by red and roe deer, sheep, hares and rabbits. Whether an area is classed as overgrazed or not depends on the use for which that land is intended, but natural regeneration of semi-natural woodland requires a much lower density of grazing animals than most other land uses, and therefore the regeneration potential of most woolands is limited. Forestry felling, Strathconon Opportunity: Re-structuring of forestry plantations as mature stands are harvested can provide one opportunity for within-site action. In particular, a move away from large clear-fells towards smaller scale felling coups and continuous cover forestry where appropriate (as now encouraged through the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme) could allow and help to fund fine-tuning of woodland management for wildlife. Opportunity: Reduction of grazing by sheep and deer (possibly now more feasible through CAP changes and work of deer management groups) could be attempted in some parts of the area in an effort to restore this missing habitat through the Forestry Commission s Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme. Increased provision of dead wood standing or fallen could be part of this restructuring, and woodland managers are encouraged to plant broadleaved trees near to watercourses and leave internal spaces within forests for their biodiversity benefit. Current projects: Many Forestry Commission woodlands are being restructured to incorporate the East Ross pinewoods, grazed and ungrazed Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland 45

52 Current projects: New native woodlands have been created through planting and natural regeneration, with grant aid from the Forestry Commission. 4.6 Non-native species Issue: Sika deer was introduced to UK country parks from Japan, and has spread across the country and now exists throughout the area. They can breed with red deer, and therefore are a threat to our native red deer through dilution of the gene pool. Muntjac deer also pose a threat to sensitive woodland ground flora but although there are unconfirmed sightings from the Ross and Cromarty (East) area, as yet we have no confirmed muntjac records. Strathvaich pinewood 4.5 Absence of tree-line woodlands and scrub Issue: There are no woodlands in the area that grow at the upper altitudinal limit for their tree species in Scotland. The montane scrub usually associated with these tree-line woodlands is also absent. Only scattered groups or individual trees in areas inaccessible to large browsing mammals represent a formerly much more widespread habitat. North American grey squirrels are not currently in the area. However, they have been recorded close to Highland Council s south and eastern boundaries and are known to be moving north. If grey squirrels were to reach Inverness, corridors of broadleaved woodland would aid their progress north, and many wildlife enthusiasts and land managers advocate altering the management of woodlands to the south of the area to discourage their spread. This includes the avoidance of broadleaved woodland corridors along river courses, a practice advocated in section 4.2. Opportunity: Restoration of tree-line woodlands and montane scrub, and thus provision of opportunities for colonisation by bird and invertebrate species normally associated with such habitats, would represent both a major biodiversity achievement and a significant landscape enhancement. There are options within the new Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme and the Rural Stewardship Scheme to expand scrub cover (up to 20% of cover in native woodland schemes under the SFGS). For this habitat to expand through natural regeneration, a much lower density of grazing animals will be required through fencing (where appropriate) and deer management. Current projects: Highland Birchwoods has undertaken a montane scrub project high on Ben Wyvis. Future actions: Encourage the safeguarding and expansion of scrub species such as juniper, willows and dwarf birch through improved funding and increased uptake of the SFGS and RSS. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, Scottish Executive, Highland Birchwoods, woodland & agricultural advisers, land managers) Red squirrel Current projects: The Deer Commission for Scotland, Forestry Commission and SNH agreed and published a sika policy in Land managers are encouraged to shoot sika deer on sight. The Highland Red Squirrel Group, with some funding from the Highland Biodiversity Project, has produced a Species Action Plan for red squirrel in Highland. Future actions: Control sika deer to stop the further expansion of their range. (Suggested partners: land managers, Deer Commission for Scotland) 46 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland

53 Encourage more people to look for and send in records of both sika and muntjac deer in the area. (Suggested partners: Deer Commission for Scotland, SNH, Forestry Commission, recreational stalkers, Highland Biological Recording Group) Undertake actions in line with the Highland Red Squirrel Species Action Plan. (Suggested partners: Highland Red Squirrel Group, Forestry Commission, woodland advisers, land managers) Future actions: Identify gaps in our knowledge and initiate a recording fund to help fill them through survey work and management trials. (Suggested partners: SNH, Forestry Commission, Highland Biological Recording Group) Initiate public surveys to identify and map species e.g. juniper. (Suggested partners: Highland Biological Recording Group, Black Isle Partnership, SNH) 4.8 Lack of awareness and involvement Issue: There is a keen interest but general lack of awareness about forest and woodland management and biodiversity amongst the general public. The Forestry Commission and others are seeking to involve more communities in the way that forests are managed. Survey work at the Conon 4.7 Lack of knowledge Issue: There are a number of gaps in our knowledge, both in terms of the location and extent of woodland species, and with regard to their optimum management requirements. For example, a rare cranefly has been recorded from aspen in the area, and this and other aspen stands could provide a potential habitat for other species of national importance such as the aspen hoverfly or bracket fungus mentioned above. Opportunity: Members of the Highland Biological Recording Group continue to record rare species from our woodlands and, given some additional funding and an adequately resourced Local Records Centre, could feed this information on to public agencies and land managers. Current projects: Scottish Wildlife Trust is managing a small cow-wheat project, and has found this very rare plant at several locations in Ross & Cromarty. The next phase should see some action on the ground and tie in local efforts with the national initiative. Culbokie forest walk Opportunity: Increasingly, woodlands are being managed for multi-purpose use, and grants are given for enhancing access and encouraging community input to woodland management through tools like the Forestry Commission s Forest Design Plans. There are also more opportunities for communities to buy local woodlands or enter into management agreements with owners, all of which will help raise awareness and involvement. Current projects: The Highland Mountainbike Association, landowners and the Forestry Commission are involved in a number of schemes to allow access to new areas. Biodiversity issues are taken into consideration in the planning of new routes. Milton Community Woodland Trust is undertaking a number of fun events and projects in their local woodland to raise awareness of biodiversity and other issues. Examples include the installation of a small tree nursery and wildlife hide, and the Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland 47

54 organisation of a series of workshops, with help from the Highland Biodiversity Project s Know Your Own Patch fund. Future actions: Develop trails, interpretation panels and links with outdoor organisations, both in the commercial and the pubic sector. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission Ranger Service, land managers, Highland Mountainbike Association, walking groups, community groups) Encourage forest users to take access responsibly, and especially to keep dogs on leads where requested for the sake of nesting birds. (Suggested partners: Forestry Commission, SNH, RSPB Scotland, land managers, community groups) Tallysow wood path Undertake an experimental coppicing / tree planting project on an even aged alder woodland at Talich Wildlife Reserve. (Suggested partners: Scottish Wildlife Trust, local people) Autumn trees near Evanton 48 Chapter 4: Forest & Woodland

55 Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill Key features: The following list highlights the key features of our upland biodiversity, the habitats and species that make this area so special and distinct in ecological terms. Extensive areas of blanket bog of international importance Some of the finest moss-heaths in Britain and Ireland in the Fannichs and on Ben Wyvis Territories for golden eagle, merlin and other birds of prey Important mountain system for glacial landforms, upland plants and breeding birds at Beinn Dearg Populations of breeding birds (dotterel, snow bunting) on the high summits Upland red deer herds valued as an economic and recreational resource Habitat for nationally rare montane plants on some cliff faces and ledges Distinctive upland heath and snowbed plant communities Hill-slopes highly visible from roads and settlements within the area, giving a distinctive sense of the closeness to the mountain wilds Photos of: Beinn Dearg, Golden eagle, Snowscape (Achnasheen), Red deer and Bog wood (Loch a Gharbhrain). Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill 49

56 Bog, moor and hill land Introduction In contrast to the accessible urban and arable areas of Ross and Cromarty, the largest expanse of land described within this biodiversity action plan is isolated mountain and moorland, which is dissected only by occasional roads and hill tracks. Upland, typically with acid soils, makes up two-thirds of the ground in Easter Ross and in many ways, its influence stretches to the coast. One of the landscape attractions of the area from a human perspective is the way that hill and mountain ground is highly visible as a backdrop to the coastal lowlands. The transition from seashore to upland can take place in only a handful of kilometres. Farmland near Balblair, Black Isle The coastal lowlands of Easter Ross and the Black Isle are predominately made up of old red sandstone. West of these lowlands lies a plateau of rounded isolated mountains dissected by glacial valleys. Ben Wyvis, the Fannichs and the hills of the Strathconon Forest stretch to over 900 metres above sea level and are made up of ancient, resistant Moine schist and Lewisian gneiss that overlook wide, gravel and boulder filled straths. The climate shift from the eastern lowlands to these higher inland territories can be extreme from warm and moderately dry at the coast to very cold and wet on the mountains. Coastal fringes of the Black Isle can have less than 700mm of rainfall in a year. By contrast, in the Fannichs, annual rainfall can top 3 metres, making the area s central mountains one of the wettest parts of Britain. Wind speed is also dramatically different on the tops, which receive three times the wind speed of the more sheltered coasts on average. In terms of biodiversity, this mix of upland and lowland makes the area special. Not only is Ross and Cromarty (East) rich in lowland species, it also has a good range of upland species. As a rule, the variety of species is less in the uplands than in the coastal lowlands, but within that smaller tally are species that are highly valued in different ways whether for their rarity, beauty or economic worth. 50 Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill

57 Habitats & species Upland habitats: The majority of the area s mountains have nutrient-poor soils. Pockets of richer rock (such as limestone) are small in extent, reducing opportunities in the area for plants that thrive on richer soils. Lower slopes are largely peat-covered, with ling heather Calluna vulgaris and dwarf woody shrubs such as bell heather Erica cinerea and crossleaved heath Erica tetralix, blaeberry Vaccinium myrtillus and bog blaeberry or whortleberry Vaccinium uliginosum interspersed with extensive areas of rough grassland dominated by species such as mat grass Nardus stricta and purple moor grass Molinea caerulea. Sides of burns and wet flushes are good locations for the area s widespread yellow saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides. Many rock faces and ledges can hold a range of interesting plants, both because they may have moist and friable rock, which creates ideal conditions for plants to cling to, and because they are out of reach of grazing animals. One of the rarities in this sort of situation in the area is Norwegian cudweed Gnaphalium norvegicum, an arctic-montane herb found only in about 30 places in Britain. Snow-bed vegetation is a feature of mountains like the Fannichs and Beinn Dearg. Different communities develop according to the length of time under snow cover. Mosses and liverworts predominate in late lying patches, for example, while early-melting patches are dominated by alpine lady s mantle Alchemilla alpina and grasses such as mat grass. Snowy stream, Achnasheen Snowscape, Achnasheen Ben Wyvis is the only place in the northern Highlands where Alpine foxtail Alopecurus borealis, an inconspicuous grass often associated with latelying snowbeds, grows. The relative inaccessibility of many of the places where montane plants could grow in the area means that there are almost certainly fresh discoveries waiting to be made in our mountains. Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus breed principally around Ben Wyvis and the high tops in the North West of the area. Dotterel Charadrius morinellus breed on high level ground and use the Beinn Dearg system. Although not the highest peak within the area, Ben Wyvis (1,046 metres above sea level) and its surrounds have great local importance, both in biodiversity and scenic terms. Its relative isolation, viewed from the south and east, gives it a commanding position in the landscape. In biodiversity terms, it is noteworthy for its widespread montane heathlands of different kinds, including lichen-rich alpine and boreal heaths and high-level grasslands. High up the mountains, between 750 and 800 metres above sea level, the most widespread vegetation type in the area is a type of moss-heath. This has a vigorous growth of woolly fringe moss Racomitrium lanuginosum, often found with stiff sedge Carex bigelowii. A cushion-forming variety of this mossheath is particularly well developed in the Fannichs, and a continuous woolly fringe moss heath the largest single stretch in Britain, covers the whole of the top of the massive summit ridge of Ben Wyvis. There are large areas of upland heath and grassland mosaics to the west of the area. Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill 51

58 Blanket bog dominated by Sphagnum bog-moss species is widespread in the area s uplands across a broad altitudinal range. Ben Wyvis is internationally recognised for its blanket bog habitat, comprising large areas of high altitude bog with cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus, alpine bearberry Arctostaphylos alpinus and dwarf birch Betula nana. Bidean a Choire Sheasgaich Distinctive communities of upland plants, including heather-lichen mixtures and moss-rich grassland grow extensively on some hills. Herds of red deer Cervus elaphus roam over hillsides and mountains, and the names of deer forests in the area carry a long history of association with the hunting of this, Britain s largest land mammal. Kildermorie, Wyvis, Inchbae, Strathvaich, Fannich, Kinlochluichart, Corriemoillie and Strathconon are some of them. All have herds of red deer that are a well established economic resource (through stalking and tourism) and locally valued asset within the hill land. Coupled with the influence of sheep grazing, red deer herds have a major influence on the mix of shrubs, including dwarf woody shrubs such as heather, trees such as willows and coarse grasses. Heavier grazing favours the latter, light the former. The near absence of montane scrub on our hillsides and confinement of tall herb communities to ledges may reflect pressure from these combined influences. There are records of netted mountain moth from the Loch Glass area which, if confirmed, makes this the most northerly site in Britain for this species of day flying moth. It is reliant on bearberry, the sole foodplant of its catterpillar. Beinn Dearg Elsewhere, moorland on midlevels of the hill ground is nowhere as extensive as in the Cairngorms area or southern Highlands. However, it is still an important habitat for birds such as merlin Falco columbarius and red grouse Lagopus lagopus. Indeed, management for red grouse can help maintain this habitat for other moorland species. It is also important for the greatly reduced number of black grouse Tetrao tetrix that use heathland close to woodland edges, but which are now absent as breeders from virtually the entire area. Golden eagle Golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos, though less numerous than in the Western Highlands, still breed here and range widely over mountains and straths. Grazing by red deer, sheep, cattle and mountain hares are important influences in maintaining or degrading the bog, moor and hill habitat. Lowland habitats: Ling heather-dominated lowland heathland was once more extensive in the area, including the high ground along the Mulbuie Ridge spine of the Black Isle. Now largely covered by forestry plantations, this once had large areas of heathy ground dominated by ling heather interspersed with pines (so much so that Hugh Miller complained of its extent in the early 1800s). A small amount of heathland still remains, with Belmaduthy, inland from Munlochy, being the most notable survivor. The now extinct in Britain Alpine butterwort Pinguicula alpina, was first reported here in 1831 and last recorded before It gradually declined as the area was reduced by cultivation, as seedling conifers spread and Victorian plant collectors did their worst in the name of personal and public plant collections. Now the area holds one of 52 Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill

59 the few remnants of juniper scrub on the Black Isle and the largest amount of lowland ling heather-rich heath on the peninsula. Lowland heath is fairly scarce in Ross and Cromarty (East), although areas can be found at Calrossie, Rosemarkie and Newhall. Its importance can be underestimated because there is so much upland heath around. However, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish one from another as there is a gradation rather than a sharp cut-off. Some areas previously identified as lowland heath in the north of Scotland are actually maritime heath influenced by proximity to the sea (e.g. Tarbat Ness). To promote better understanding of the upland environment and its sensitivity to change or damage, especially from recreational use. To channel recreation to robust areas and where footpath erosion occurs, seek to restore by path repair and construction. To target management prescriptions for sheep and cattle to benefit lowland heath. East Ross upland Main Issues 5.1 Loss of open ground Loch Muigh-bhlaraidh Belmaduthy on the Black Isle is but a remnant of a habitat that was much more extensive prior to the planting of the large blocks of conifers. It is unusual in that some of it is fed by alkaline-rich springs, and this calcareous heath is quite different from upland heath in terms of the species that it supports (more orchids and a wider range of invertebrates). Linked to the lowland heath issue is that of lowland raised bogs that sometimes grade into such heath. Pitmaduthy Moss and Monadh Mor are valuable in a European context because they support trees (so called bog woodland). Objectives To reduce grazing pressure to levels that avoid habitat loss and permit recovery of overgrazed or trampled habitats. To ensure adherence to the Muirburn Code. To avoid damage to blanket bog by not draining land and confining all-terrain vehicle use where possible to drier ground. Issue: Concerns have been expressed about the loss of open ground to forestry and new developments. Planning permission is not required for some changes in land use, for example for afforestation of lowland heath. Land use change to forestry is regulated by the Forestry Commission except in cases of small scale plantings. Planning permission will be required for certain land use change such as the erection of non-agricultural buildings and structures (e.g. houses, aerial masts, wind turbines and associated tracks). It is also necessary where the land is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), when consent is required from Scottish Natural Heritage for certain potentially damaging operations. Where permission is required, often the planners do not have sufficient knowledge of the habitats or species that are likely to be affected by a new development to judge the impact upon the area s biodiversity. With a push for increased use of renewable energy, there could be further proposals for wind generation (and small-scale hydro-schemes) in the area s uplands. Since these developments can typically involve creation of extensive broad tracks in places that were previously trackless, great care should be taken in agreeing sites of future renewable schemes. Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill 53

60 Opportunity: The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004) places a duty on public bodies to conserve biodiversity and in time, new tools like Strategic Environmental Assessment should help incorporate biodiversity issues into the planning process at an early stage. Any potentially negative impacts of large new afforestation schemes or developments should be identified through the Project Environmental Impact Assessment process. Current projects: A recent initiative between Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission has resulted in a plan to fell some of the forest at Belmaduthy in a sympathetic manner in 2005, to protect the calcareous springs that feed the nearby lowland heath. Agreements with land managers to protect and enhance bog, moor and hill habitats are in place at Strathconnon, Calrossie and on Ben Wyvis. Future actions: Identify the most important areas of open ground through survey and local consultation, and feed this into the planning process through Strategic Environmental Assessment. (Suggested partners: SNH, DCS, Deer Management Groups, SWT, local recorders and community groups, Forestry Commission, Highland Council Planning & Development Service, land managers) Red deer 5.2 Inappropriate grazing Issue: Inappropriate grazing by sheep and deer has a major influence on the area s hill vegetation. Some sensitive species have been confined to inaccessible locations such as cliffs by overgrazing, which also prevents the regeneration of woodland and montane scrub. In some areas, undergrazing too can cause problems, as some plant communities need a level of grazing to thrive. Opportunity: Following the Common Agricultural Policy Reform there may be opportunities for a reduction in sheep numbers linked to payments for environmentally sensitive farming. Deer management groups have a key role to play in determining upland habitat condition through the use of tools such as Deer Management Plans, incorporating an assessment of habitat quality in relation to grazing density. Current projects: The Rural Stewardship Scheme and Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme pay grants to reduce grazing pressure on lowland sites, and Scottish Natural Heritage have entered into agreements with some land managers on designated sites. Sgurr Choinnich The East Highland area has four Deer Management Groups: South, North, East and West Ross, who meet annually to discuss deer numbers and cull targets. The Deer Commission for Scotland acts in an advisory capacity to these groups and through a priority site process, deals with deer damage to natural heritage, woodland or agricultural interests. A policy for the use of deer fencing is currently being developed by DCS, SNH, Forestry Commission and the Scottish Executive. 54 Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill

61 Future actions: Encourage land managers to reduce, maintain or, in some cases, increase numbers of grazing animals (including deer, sheep and cattle) to levels that permit the survival and expansion of grazing-sensitive species while enhancing the welfare and quality of the remaining, smaller deer population. (Suggested partners: SNH, DCS, Deer Management Groups, Scottish Rural Property & Business Association, Highland FWAG, SAC, Scottish Crofting Foundation, Scottish National Farmers Union, land managers) Encourage the reinstatement of low level grazing regimes on some lowland heaths to prevent the rapid regeneration of conifers onto these heaths. (Suggested partners: land managers, Highland FWAG, SAC, Forestry Commission, SNH) Future actions: Encourage adherence to good practice guides such as those mentioned above, and give thought to whether burning is required at all in some locations. (Suggested partners: Scottish Rural Property & Business Association, SNH, Highland FWAG, SAC, land managers) Provide education and training for those involved in heather management, in particular muirburning, through formal and informal routes. (Suggested partners: Highland Rural Business Services, Scottish Rural Property & Business Association, SNH, Highlands & Islands Fire Brigade) Sheep and lamb 5.3 Inappropriate burning Issue: Controlled strip burning of heather moorland and heathland can benefit grouse and some species of moorland birds (e.g. meadow pipit, skylark). However, burning of other habitats such as blanket bog, scree and woodland can cause lasting damage, and if fires are not managed they can spread into neighbouring habitats, often with disastrous effects. Opportunity: Good practice guides such as The Muirburn Code (Scottish Executive, 2001) and its supplement Prescribed burning on moorland have been issued and are currently subject to a review. As well as giving advice on the times and conditions for burning, information is given on where not to burn, e.g. on blanket bog and steep sided valleys. Current projects: The Rural Stewardship Scheme also pays grants for sensitive muirburning and bracken control. Allt a Gharbrain 5.4 Hill tracks and footpaths Issue: Hill tracks and footpaths, particularly at high altitude (e.g. Little Wyvis) can cause erosion of fragile, irreplaceable soils. The use of quad and trail bikes can cause severe erosion and loss of important habitats on upland areas where re-growth is slow. Increased visitor activity can cause disturbance to breeding birds, deer and plants, and dogs sometimes chase and catch chicks or frighten birds off nests. Current projects: The Footpath Trust has improved some upland paths in the area. Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill 55

62 Future actions: Restrict all-terrain vehicles to drier ground where possible and prevent illegal access by powered vehicles to upland areas. (Suggested partners: land managers) Prevent recreational damage by path repair and construction where appropriate, and take biodiversity into account when planning new routes. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, SNH, Forestry Commission, land managers, user groups) Raise awareness amongst businesses involved in activities using hill tracks and paths (e.g. cycling, hill walking and running). (Suggested partners: Highland Council, SNH, land managers, user groups) Interpret appropriate tracks to help manage public access and inform people of upland habitat management. (Suggested partners: land managers, Highland Council Access & Ranger Services, SNH) 5.5 Climate change Issue: Climate change, due to global warming is likely to influence the vegetation of the area s mountains. In particular, a reduction in the amount and duration of snow cover will have an impact on snowbed plant communities (initially working against ones where mosses and liverworts are common). Warming might also allow more grass-dominated plant communities to spread further uphill, perhaps at the expense of the woolly fringe moss heaths. Raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on sensitive snow bed and upland communities. (Suggested partners: SNH, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, land managers) 5.6 Lack of species information Issue: There is a lack of knowledge about some of the less well-known species that inhabit our mountains and moorlands, and the data that is collected is not all in one place. Opportunity: Various bodies and individuals collect data on upland species, e.g. RSPB Scotland, Highland Raptor Group, Butterfly Conservation Scotland. Current projects: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has carried out in-depth surveys of e.g. golden eagle, merlin and peregrine falcon populations throughout the area. Future actions: Encourage further surveys of bog, moor and hill areas, involving the general public through a number of training courses where appropriate, e.g. bumble bee survey including public survey for Bombus monticola. (Suggested partners: SNH, SWT, Highland Biological Recording Group, Field Clubs and community groups) Opportunity: Whilst there is not much that can be done within the scope of this Plan to counteract global warming, there are opportunities to monitor and model changes in our vegetation, and manage our habitats accordingly. We don t know a lot about the ecology of the high mountain species and if we find out more, we might be able to determine how they will react to changes in our climate. Current projects: Scottish Natural Heritage and some of the country s research organisations are monitoring and modelling climate change to help predict the impacts on the UK s biodiversity and feed into international debates. Future actions: Bog wood, Loch a Gharbhrain Continue to undertake monitoring and modelling experiments, and feed the results into habitat management practices. (Suggested partners: SNH, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, land managers) 56 Chapter 5: Bog, Moor & Hill

63 Chapter 6: Town & Village Key features: The following list highlights the key features of our urban and built environment, the habitats and species that make this area so special and distinct in ecological terms. Healthy populations of house sparrow and swift, common urban birds that are declining elsewhere in the UK Close proximity between human dwellings and wildlife Strong linkages between town and country, and a growing desire for more countryside access within the urban population Linear oases for plants and animals along roadside verges and field boundaries Photos of: Marybank Primary Wildlife Garden Project, Robin, Fodderty Cemetry, Avoch and Muir of Ord Enviornmental Group Clean-Up. Chapter 6: Town & Village 57

64 Towns and villages, with main roads Introduction The population of Ross and Cromarty (East) is over 43,350 and the great majority of these people live in small towns and villages. Most of these settlements have fairly compact clusters of houses (though a few are more linear), with only small amounts of green space (other than playing fields) within the settlement limits. This restricts the opportunities for wildlife variety within the settlements. However, a very notable feature of this area is the way that strong linkages between town and country are evident in every main settlement. Think of these scenarios, each one fairly commonplace: red kites soaring over Culbokie or the slopes flanking Dingwall flocks of greylag geese calling and circling above coastal towns along the north of the Cromarty Firth or wild swans over Tain an otter hunting the kelp edge just metres from a well-used road along the southern Black Isle Bottlenose dolphins visible from shore-facing windows in Cromarty Common seals hauled-out close to the approaches to Dingwall Buzzards calling within earshot of central Muir of Ord In each case, a sense of the wild can penetrate deep into the settlements. None of these places is large, by national standards, and so the physical distance between human dwellings and wildlife can be short. Avoch For every one of the main settlements, farmland stretches to part or most of the edge of the built-up area. In several cases the coast is very close to the settlement edge and in some, notably Conon Bridge, Maryburgh, Evanton and Alness, a river runs through or close to the heart of the town or village. 58 Chapter 6: Town & Village

65 In contrast to many other urban areas where the bulk (more than 80 per cent) of Scotland s population dwells, the people of Ross and Cromarty (East) have a flying start in terms of appreciation and perception of wildlife close to home. Building on this appreciation, crucially, could be more about making access to nearby habitats easier, rather than planning how (beyond gardens) to bring wildlife into town. Quite simply, towns and villages here have visible, audible, enjoyable wildlife just beyond the doorstep. and so provision of garden ponds can make a real contribution to their well-being. Providing winter food for birds may also have a positive impact beyond a garden and into the wider countryside. Reduction in availability of seedbearing plants through agricultural changes has a bearing on the survival of birds such as locally breeding yellowhammers, chaffinches, goldfinches and linnets. Bird-table seeds can benefit the first two species; seeding garden thistles benefit the second two. Otherwise, provision of bird food is an excellent way for people of whatever age to get close views of small, wild creatures. As such, it can be both a boost to personal well-being and an important educational resource. Fodderty Cemetry, near Dingwall Habitats & species Gardens: Wildlife-friendly gardening techniques can make a huge contribution to local biodiversity. This has been quantified in detail, for example, in Edinburgh, where a range of species is recorded only in gardens and where gardens represent a major expanse of wildlife-rich green space within the city limits. Gardens provide an important resource for insects one local gardener and wildlife enthusiast has recorded over 60 species of hoverfly, 13 species of bumble bee and 15 species of butterfly in his garden alone! In turn, these insects enhance the food supply for birds and mammals, and enhance pollination and aphid control. Even in an area with a predominantly rural landscape, such as Ross and Cromarty (East), gardens can boost biodiversity. One crucial way they can do this is through provision of ponds (without tadpole-eating goldfish) with gently sloping edges and some emergent vegetation. Such garden ponds now provide important habitat for local amphibians common frogs, toads, and palmate newts and will also be used by water beetles, diving beetles, pond snails and (sometimes) dragonflies and damselflies. Drainage of marshy parts of farmland in recent decades has reduced the breeding habitat for such small wetland creatures, Great tit For butterflies, flowering species like Buddleia bushes provide an excellent nectar source in gardens. Otherwise, provision of native tree species and plants such as rowans, bird cherry, gean and dandelion can give food and/or shelter to a wide range of birds and invertebrates. Orgainc gardening has known benefits for wildlife, and growing to organic principles can enhance the biodiversity within your garden and save money on chemicals. Roadside verges: Road verges cut late in the growing season (early August Lammas onwards) can in effect be small linear meadows. They have become increasingly important as remnants of wildflower habitats, as we have lost many farmland meadows with the shift from hay to silage production, coupled with a reduction in the amount of winter keep required due to falling levels of over-wintering stock. Chapter 6: Town & Village 59

66 Objectives To raise awareness of biodiversity in and around settlements. To foster links between towns and villages and their surrounding countryside through the creation and maintenance of path networks, whilst ensuring that any new path developments take account of biodiversity at the initial stages. To encourage positive action by local people through wildlife gardening projects, local recording initiatives and school-based projects. To ensure biodiversity is considered as part of future maintenance of public parks, cemeteries and roadside verges. To encourage further developments to take biodiversity into account at an early stage in the planning process. Main issues 6.1 Uncertainty over access to the countryside Issue: Given the nearness of farmland, river, woodland or coast to most of the area s settlements, a logical follow-on is to consider how to make physical access to parts of these areas feasible for local residents. Done in a way that does not compromise the economic activities of surrounding land and that allows quiet recreation with minimal disturbance to wildlife, such networking is a great way to raise awareness and build on existing local biodiversity assets. Opportunity: Good path networks already exist around some of the area s towns and villages, but it would be wise to look to survey the distribution of these with reference to wildlife-appreciation, as well as general recreation opportunities. From this perspective, new opportunities could arise, perhaps assisted by different possibilities for some farmland in the wake of Common Agricultural Policy reform. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code and Highland Council s Access Project staff will help clarify access matters. Current projects: As a result of partnership working between Ross & Cromarty HealthWays and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, the Highland s first Green Gym Group was established in 2003 in Invergordon. Volunteers have met each Friday to undertake projects that will be beneficial to the community and in doing so, will also give them a great physical workout. Dingwall, Maryburgh, Strathpeffer and Contin are linked by a comprehensive network of paths established in the 1990s by the Footpath Trust, and now maintained by the Mid Ross Steering Group. The people in these communities can enjoy the diverse wildlife on their doorsteps along the River Conon, through the Brahan Woods and along the Knockfarrel / Catsback Ridge. There are also path networks around the South Sutor at Cromarty, running between Fortrose and Avoch, and around the shore and inland at Evanton. Future actions: Review the extent of access routes linking settlements with wildlife areas that could be visited with minimal disturbance. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council Ranger & Access Services) Link features such as woodlands (currently separated from settlement edges by fields) to the settlements by new green corridors, extend existing paths and create hides to offer better viewing facilities for wildlife watching. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council Ranger & Access Services, RSPB Scotland, land managers, community groups) Encourage the responsible use of paths and avoidance of sensitive footpaths by cyclists and horses. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council Ranger & Access Services, user groups, land managers) Robin 6.2 Boundary habitats Issue: Associated with the networking of settlement and wildlife areas is the idea that some stretches of boundary wall or roadside verges are already linear oases for plants and animals, and that others could make a much greater contribution to local biodiversity than they do at present. It is possible in different parts of the area to see remnants of former 60 Chapter 6: Town & Village

67 heathland or woodland vegetation along roadsides, for example, with native plants such as ling heather, ferns and bedstraws that are absent from adjacent fields or gardens. Opportunity: Identifying such remnants through local knowledge and survey would be a useful project in many parishes. So too would identifying verges and other linear features that have greater potential for plant variety than at present, for example, through a modification to the current mowing or spraying regime. Current projects: The Black Isle Partnership has produced a habitat network and wildlife corridor survey, with a view to enhancing the linkages between existing natural habitats, and are currently looking to take this forward with relevant bodies. The key recommendations from the Black Isle Partnership s Making Space for Wildlife Report are: Identify Core Priority Areas which focus on seminatural wooded and open ground habitats with the aim of ensuring the conservation of national priority habitats and the wide range of native species which are found on the Black Isle. Propose the provision of corridors and stepping stones to enhance the coherence of the landscape and support larger and more robust populations of the animals and plants here. Propose the restoration of areas under intense management which would serve to extend the network, providing new habitats and facilitating dispersal and migration. Identify the need for adequate buffer zones to protect core areas and corridors in the habitat network from adverse external influences, particularly edge effects. Propose co-operation of effort across agencies and with community support as a mechanism for gathering important information to strengthen the habitat network approach. Identify sources of funding to reverse the fragmentation of habitats on the Black Isle with the aim of maximising the biodiversity around us. Propose mechanisms to raise awareness of the biodiversity around us at a local level. Identify limitations in the data available and the need for further work to gather good quality information at local level. Future actions: Conduct a parish-level survey to identify plant-rich sections of verges or boundary walls and find other areas where plant variety could be boosted. (Suggested partners: Field Clubs, Highland Biological Recording Group, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Highland Council Ranger Service, SNH, Inverness Botany Group) Incorporate the sympathetic management of roadside verges for biodiversity into road verge maintenance contracts where feasible and not conflicting with other issues such as safety. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland) Leave more areas of scrub, hedges and long grass uncut during the nesting season on public land such as parks, cemeteries, roads, railways. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, BEAR Scotland, Railtrack) Involve local communities and interest groups in the maintenance of road verges, with the aim of improving the verge and hedge habitat for biodiversity. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, BEAR Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Highland Biological Recording Group, local communities & field clubs) Muir of Ord Environmental Group Clean-Up 6.3 Community involvement Issue: Scotland now has a large number of successful community woodland projects, where local people take an active involvement in the management of a local wood or piece of common land. This can be through purchase or agreement. Opportunity: Benefits of existing community woodland work typically include the focussing of efforts to fine-tune woodland management for biodiversity. This is possible, in part, because of the boosted availability of volunteer labour to carry out management such as coppicing or selective tree removal in very small areas over a long period of time. Chapter 6: Town & Village 61

68 Fresh opportunities for such community ventures are likely to arise in future, in part through the disposal of plantations currently in Forestry Commission ownership. Community work to re-structure plantations and (perhaps) to create new woodland corridors could be an exciting new phase in linking people and wildlife in the area. Current projects: In this area, the Milton Community Wood is a prime example of such a project that links people, trees and wider woodland biodiversity. Marybank Primary Wildlife Garden Project Gardeners across the Black Isle are being encouraged to buy plants that benefit birds and insects from local nurseries by the Black Isle Partnership. Milnafua Residents Association have run a wildlife gardening competition, with a small amount of funding from SNH and the Highland Biodiversity Project. Bat box 6.4 Wildlife gardens Issue: Wildlife gardens provide us with an excellent opportunity to provide food and shelter for our native wildlife, whilst enabling us to find out more about them. Opportunity: There are several garden for wildlife initiatives UK wide that encourage wildlife friendly gardening techniques. Scottish Natural Heritage provides small grants for community-led wildlife gardening projects, and will also advise on the types of plants to grow. The Easter Ross Ranger and several private contractors have also provided a valuable input to the siting and design of features in many school and community gardens around the area. Current projects: Marybank School Community Garden introduces the children and the community of this East Ross village to plants and animals that benefit wildlife. Mulbuie Primary has also embarked on a wildlife gardening project, and both of these initiatives have received a small amount of funding from the Highland Biodiversity Project. Fortrose Academy has created a biodiversity garden that is being used as an environmental resource and contains plants that grow in the surrounding area. South Lodge School in Invergordon has had an ecogarden in place for over 10 years and has educated countless children in the value of wildlife. Alness has included insect loving plants into its triumphant Britain in Bloom project. The Macdonald Road residents in Dingwall have planted a garden for wildlife on a piece of waste ground and built a path so that locals can enjoy it. An Invergordon group have planted a hedge of native shrubs and trees beside a park to encourage wildlife into the town. Future actions: Conduct an assessment of the availability of locally appropriate wildflower seed mixes for meadow habitat in both gardens and verges, and raise awareness of the issues surrounding non-local mixes. (Suggested partners: SNH, Black Isle Partnership, Highland Council Ranger Service, Highland Biological Recording Group, Gardening Centres and Clubs) Encourage local garden shops to sell peat free compost, local seed mixes and plants grown from local seed. (Suggested partners: SNH, Black Isle Partnership, Highland Council Ranger Service, Highland Biological Recording Group, Gardening Centres and Clubs) Provide locally relevant information on growing to organic principles, the creation of wildlife-friendly ponds and other wildlife gardening issues through training days, demonstration gardens and the employment of specialist wildlife gardeners. (Suggested partners: SNH, Black Isle Partnership, Highland Council Ranger Service, Gardening Centres and Clubs) 62 Chapter 6: Town & Village

69 Run further local wildlife gardening competitions to involve and enthuse more local people in gardening for wildlife and growing to organic principles, perhaps linked with national events or recording schemes such as the Big Garden Bird Watch. (Suggested partners: community groups, gardening clubs, SNH, RSPB Scotland, Butterfly Conservation) Modify parts of school grounds to improve them for wildlife in schools that do not yet have wildlife gardens. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education Service & Ranger Service, SNH) mill-pond in the Fairy Glen near Rosemarkie, for wildlife as well as historical and cultural reasons. It is a key feeding area for pipistrelle bats, and is well connected to other feeding areas and roosts. The Tain Initiative Project has created a wildlife area out of a disused boating pond, and the Muir of Ord Environmental Group has organised clean ups of local ponds that contain one of the few remaining habitats for the great crested newt. Future actions: Encourage local communities to identify areas that they would like to turn into a community wildlife resource, and help them to undertake the work. (Suggested partners: SNH, Highland Council Planning & Development Service, Highland Biological Recording Group, local groups and field clubs) Milnafua Wildlife Garden competition winner (2003) 6.5 Habitat creation Issue: There are a number of disused structures and areas of waste ground that could be transformed into wildlife-friendly sites. However, care must be taken in doing so to void tidying up areas of scrub, deadwood, weeds and long grass, which are natural features although they can be perceived as messy. Opportunity: There are many opportunities within villages and towns for habitat improvements. Planting berry-bearing trees and shrubs benefits wintering birds, patches of dense scrub benefits nesting birds, and old graveyards are often ideal habitats with much available scrub. New graveyards are often open areas with little cover for wildlife, making them less attractive for human visitors too. Boundary hedges, trees, etc would benefit both wildlife and people here. Current projects: RSPB Scotland, with help from the North Highland Leader + project, is restoring the Atlantic salmon from Scotlands largest hatchery programme recaptured to start next generation 6.6 Lack of awareness Issue: There is a general lack of awareness about biodiversity and sustainable development in the Highlands, and projects that encourage people to find out more about their local wildlife and the environment in general should be encouraged. Current projects: Several projects in Ross and Cromarty (East) are showing people how to minimise waste so that landfill is used less and fewer lorries are needed to carry away our rubbish. This improves the environment and leads to less pollution, which benefits biodiversity. Highland Council s Easter Ross Ranger visits schools and arranges field trips for local people so that they have a greater understanding of the interactions between plants, animals and humans. Moth hunts, mammal courses, bat evenings and woodland walks have all been organised and help Chapter 6: Town & Village 63

70 demonstrate the richness of our countryside to those that are interested to find out about it. Ferintosh Community Council are carrying out a bird survey, and hope to produce a booklet illustrating their findings. Loch Kinellan is privately owned by a group of local residents, who manage it for wildlife and as an amenity. Fortrose Golf Course won a conservation award for work on their land. Golf courses often provide significant wildlife resources and green spaces within urban areas. Future actions: Pull together a list of tools and materials available to schools, and identify projects and local biodiversity studies that fit in with the curriculum. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education & Ranger Services, SNH) Undertake local bird surveys with school children to assess populations and provide biodiversity information of relevance to local schools, perhaps linked with a nest box camera project such as that carried out in Skye & Lochalsh last year. (Suggested partners: RSPB Scotland, SNH, Highland Council Education & Ranger Services) Undertake urban wildlife surveys and investigate historical records to find out what is, was and could be present. (Suggested partners: Field Clubs, Highland Biological Recording Group, SNH) Undertake a Butterfly Guardians project, similar to that currently running in south and west Scotland, to encourage local people to get involved in either general recording or targeted recording of priority species of butterflies and moths. This has proved very successful especially in recording species like pearl-bordered fritillary where local knowledge and proximity to sites has allowed an increase in recording and increased awareness of the species. (Suggested partners: Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Highland Biological Recording Group, SNH, Highland Council Ranger Service) Red admiral 6.7 Cats and dogs Issue: Domestic and especially feral cats prey on a number of small birds and mammals, and national studies have shown them to have a serious detrimental effect on populations of garden bird around settlements. Dogs running off their leads can disturb wildlife in various habitats, particularly ground-nesting birds in uplands, woodlands or loch edges during spring and early summer, and wintering waders feeding on shores at low tide. Future actions: Encourage cat owners to have their cats neutered, to use collars with bells, and not to release unwanted cats into the wild. (Suggested partners: Vets, pet owners) Encourage dog owners to keep dogs on leads, particularly during spring and early summer. (Suggested partners: Vets, pet owners) Portmahomack 64 Chapter 6: Town & Village

71 Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists Photos of: Red squirrel, Robin, Barn owl, Starfish and Cromarty Firth from Mountgerald. Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists 65

72 Priority Habitats: Table 1 lists the national and local priority habitats. The national priority habitats (N) are the habitats occurring in Ross and Cromarty (East) that have been selected by the UK Biodiversity Steering Group. Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) or Statements have been prepared for these habitats, and are available on the website Additional local priorities (L), which are not covered by the national categories but are nonetheless important habitats in their own right because they support both national and local priority species, are also listed here. Table 1: Priority Habitats Habitat type: Sea & Coast Coastal salt marsh (N) Coastal sand dunes (N) Maritime cliff and slopes (N) Mudflats (N) Seagrass beds (N) Sublittoral sands and gravels (N) Coastal grasslands (L) Coastal waters (L) Common mussel beds (L) Undisturbed coastal stretches (L) River, Loch & Wetland Eutrophic standing waters (N) Mesotrophic lakes (N) Reedbeds (N) Floodplain (L) River gorges (L) Spawning burns (L) Wetlands and ponds (L) Farm & Croft Land Cereal field margins (N) Purple moor grass and rush pastures (N) Cattle-grazed pasture (L) Drystone dykes and long established field boundaries (L) Gorse and scrub woodland (L) Unsprayed and uncultivated field margins (L) Winter brassica fields & stubbles (L) Forest & Woodland Native pinewood (N) Upland oakwood (N) Wet woodland (N) Upland birch (N) Aspen stands (L) Notable occurrence: Dornoch Firth / Morrich More Dornoch Firth / Morrich More Shandwick coast, southern Black Isle Firths at eastern rim Beauly and Cromarty Firths Moray Firth Rosemarkie Tarbat Ness Inner Moray Firth Dornoch Firth Dornoch Firth Loch Eye Loch Ussie Near Dingwall Achanalt Marshes Black Rock Gorge near Evanton, Scotsburn Gorge, Allt nan Caorach Tributaries of the River Conon Conon Bridge, small farms and crofts throughout area Farmland in east Upland farm and croftland Farm and croft land in east Farmland in east Coastal sites, roadsides & field margins Farmland in east Farm and croft land in east Strathvaich pinewood, Monadh Mor, Pitmaduthy Achilty oakwood, Drummondreach on the Black Isle Margins and floodplain alderwoods at the mouth of River Conon South side of Loch Glass, Strath Vaich, Strathconon Achilty 66 Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists

73 Habitat type: Coastal semi-natural woodland (L) Riparian woodland (L) Woodland corridors as part of forest habitat networks (L) Bog, Moor & Hill Blanket bog (N) Lowland heathland (N) Upland heathland (N) Bog woodland (L) Extensive woolly fringe moss heaths (L) Montane scrub (L) Rock faces and ledges (L) Snow-bed vegetation (L) Town & Village Wildlife-friendly private and public gardens (L) Path networks linking settlements and wildlife areas (L) Potentially flower-rich roadside verges (L) Notable occurrence: Southern Black Isle east of Rosemarkie Along the lower reaches of the River Conon and some of the eastern burns Black Isle Upland west of area Belmaduthy, Black Isle Hillsides in upland west Pitmaduthy Moss, Monadh Mor Ben Wyvis, the Fannichs ( m asl) Ben Wyvis near absence from most of area Upland west of area Ben Wyvis, Beinn Dearg, the Fannichs Gardens throughout area Settlements throughout area Roadside verges throughout area Priority Species: The following table identifies the national priority species (shaded rows) and local priority species (not shaded) that are known to occur in Ross and Cromarty (East). The national priority species have been identified by the UK Biodiversity Steering Group, and Species Action Plans (SAPs) or Statements have been prepared for their conservation and enhancement. These Plans and Statements are available on the website and further details of nationally important species are available from Scottish Natural Heritage. Ross and Cromarty (East) contains a number of additional species that are rare or scarce in either Highland or Britain as a whole, and these local priority species are listed below. We have also included a number of species that although not rare or scarce nationally, are rare or particularly valued by people in Easter Ross and the Black Isle. Table 2: Priority Species Scientific name: Common name: Priority: Amphibians Bufo bufo Common toad Rana temporaria Common frog Triturus cristatus Great crested newt UK BAP Triturus helvetica Palmate newt Ants Formica aquilonia Scottish wood ant UK BAP Formica lugubris Hairy wood ant UK BAP Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists 67

74 Scientific name: Common name: Priority: Bees and Wasps Andrena ruficrus A solitary mining bee Bombus monticola Bilberry Bumblebee Bombus muscorum Moss Carder Bee Bombus soroeensis Broken-belted Bumblebee Osmia uncinata A mason bee UK BAP Beetles No information available Birds Acanthis flavirostris Twite Alauda arvensis Skylark UK BAP Alcedo atthis Kingfisher Anas penelope Wigeon Anser anser Greylag goose Anser brachyrhyncus Pink-footed goose Aquila chrysaetos Golden eagle Arenaria interpres Turnstone Calidris canutus Knot Carduelis cannabina Linnet UK BAP Charadrius morinellus Dotterel Circus cyaneus Hen harrier Cygnus cygnus Whooper swan Delichon urbica House martin Emberiza citronella Yellowhammer Emberiza schoeniclus Reed bunting UK BAP Gallinago gallinago Snipe Hirundo rustica Swallow Larus ridibundus Black-headed gull Limosa lapponica Bar-tailed godwit Loxia scotica Scottish crossbill UK BAP Melanitta nigra Common scoter UK BAP Milvus milvus Red kite Muscicapa striata Spotted flycatcher UK BAP Numenius arquata Curlew Pandion haliaetus Osprey Parus cristatus Crested tit Passer domesticus House sparrow Passer montanus Tree sparrow UK BAP Passer montanus Tree sparrow Perdix perdix Grey Partridge UK BAP Pernis apivorus Honey buzzard Phalacrocorax carbo Cormorant Plectrophenax nivalis Snow bunting Pyrrhula pyrrhula Bullfinch UK BAP Scolopax rusticola Woodcock 68 Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists

75 Scientific name: Common name: Priority: Somateria mollissima Eider Tetrao tetrix Black grouse UK BAP Tetrao urogallus Capercaillie UK BAP Tringa totanus Redshank Turdus philomelos Song thrush UK BAP Tyto alba Barn Owl Vanellus vanellus Lapwing Butterflies and moths Noctua orbona Lunar yellow underwing UK BAP Semiothisa carbonaria Netted mountain moth UK BAP Xylena exsoleta Sword grass UK BAP Aricia artaxerxes Northern brown argus UK BAP Boloria euphrosyne Pearl-bordered fritillary UK BAP Coenonympha pamphilus Small heath Cupido minimus Small blue Epione parallelaria Dark-bordered beauty UK BAP Hemaris tityus Narrow-bordered bee hawk UK BAP moth Hipparchia semele Grayling Paradiarsia sobrina Cousin German UK BAP Pararge aegeria Speckled wood Xestia alpicola alpina Northern dart UK BAP Fish Anguilla anguilla Common eel Clupea harengus Herring UK BAP Gadus morhua Cod UK BAP Lampetra fluviatilis River lamprey Lampetra planeri Brook lamprey Merlangus merlangus Whiting UK BAP Petromyzon marinus Sea lamprey Pleuronectes platessa Plaice UK BAP Pollachius virens Saithe UK BAP Raja batis Common skate UK BAP Salmo salar Salmon Salmo trutta Brown / sea trout Scomber scombus Mackerel UK BAP Tracharus trachurus Horse mackerel UK BAP Flies No information available Fungi Hygrocybe spp. Waxcaps Lichens No information available Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists 69

76 Scientific name: Common name: Priority: Mammals Arvicola terrestris Water vole UK BAP Balaenoptera acutorostrata Minke whale UK BAP Felis sylvestris Scottish wildcat Halichoerus grypus Grey seal Lepus europaeus Brown hare UK BAP Lepus timidus Mountain hare Lutra lutra Otter UK BAP Martes martes Pine marten Meles meles Badger Mus musculus House mouse Myotis daubentoni Daubenton s bat Myotis nattereri Natterer s bat Neomys fodiens Water shrew Phoca vitulina Common (harbour) seal Phoecoena phocoena Harbour porpoise UK BAP Pipistrellus pipistrellus Common pipistrelle bat UK BAP Pipistrellus pygmaeus Soprano pipistrelle bat UK BAP Plecotus auritus Brown long-eared bat Sciurus vulgaris Red squirrel UK BAP Tursiops truncatus Bottlenosed dolphin UK BAP Molluscs Margaritifera margaritifera Freshwater pearl mussel UK BAP Vertigo genesii Round-mouthed whorl snail UK BAP Vertigo geyeri Geyer s whorl snail UK BAP Mosses and liverworts No information available Reptiles Anguis fragilis Lacerta vivipara Vipera berus Slow worm Common lizard Adder Sea anenomes No information available Stoneworts No information available Vascular plants Anthemis arvensis Corn chamomile Astragolus glycyphyllus Wild liquorice Centaurea cyanus Cornflower UK BAP Chrysanthemum segetum Corn marigold Corallorhiza trifida Coralroot orchid Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii an eyebright UK BAP 70 Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists

77 Scientific name: Common name: Priority: Juniperus communis Juniper UK BAP Lychnis flos-cuculi Ragged robin Lycopodiella inundata Marsh clubmoss UK BAP Melampyrum sylvaticum Small cow-wheat UK BAP Oxytropis halleri Purple oxytropis Pilularia globulifera Pillwort UK BAP Populus tremula Aspen Potentilla neumanniana Spring cinquefoil Potomogeton rutilus Shetland pondweed UK BAP Saxifraga granulata Meadow saxifrage Sorbus aria Whitebeam Viola arvensis Field pansy Rural Stewardship Scheme: The Rural Stewardship Scheme (RSS) incorporates a list of 30 locally important habitats and species, that have been drawn up jointly by agricultural and conservation interests. There are different lists for different areas throughout Scotland, and Ross and Cromarty (East) falls under the East Highland list, which is shown below. This list is not to be confused with the national and local priority habitats and species above, as it is used specifically for RSS applications and is updated by the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department on an annual basis. Habitat 1. Acid grassland 2. Marshy grassland and rough pasture 3. Lowland meadows 4. Neutral grassland 5. Purple moor grass & rush pasture 6. Watercourses (rivers and streams) 7. Rushes & Marginal vegetation (including species-rich rush pasture) 8. Wetland margins 9. Wet heath 10. Dry heath 11. Overwintering crops 12. Arable field margins 13. Riparian woodland 14. Scrub woodland (upland scrub) 15. Non species-rich hedgerows Species 16. Common eyebright 17. Blaeberry 18. Ragged robin 19. Greater woodrush 20. Devil s bit scabious 21. Common orchid 22. Knapweed 23. Corn marigold 24. Bird s foot trefoil 25. Brown trout 26. Barn owl 27. Lapwing 28. Snipe 29. Goldfinch 30. Yellowhammer Chapter 7: Habitats & Species Lists 71

78 What s Next? What You Can Do Everyone can do their bit for biodiversity and the environment, whether it is in the garden or down at the shops! Here are some examples of how you can help: Get involved: Find out about your local environment and take part in local projects. (Contact: Easter Ross Ranger, Black Isle Partnership, Muir of Ord Environmental Group, Milton Community Woodland Group, Tain Initiative Group, Wild & Green Group, or your local community council or association) Become one of BTCV Scotland s Highland Volunteers. (BTCV: British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) Join your local Field or Bird Club, and take part in surveys or recording projects. (Contact: Tain & District Field Club, Dingwall Field Club, Scottish Ornithologists Club - Highland Branch, RSPB Highland Group, Highland Biological Recording Group, Scottish Wildlife Trust - Inner Moray Firth Members Centre) Send any interesting wildlife records or sightings to the Highland Biological Recording Group (including a six figure grid reference) Report any suspicious behaviour or suspected wildlife crimes to your local Wildlife Liaison Officer, Northern Constabulary, in Inverness. Keep biodiversity high on the political agenda by writing to your local councillor, MSP, MP or MEP. Garden for wildlife: Plant native species and flowering or berry-bearing shrubs such as buddlea or contoneaster that will provide food and shelter all year round for wildlife. (Information on gardening for wildlife in this area is available from the Black Isle Partnership.) Leave a wild corner long grass, nettles and other weeds can be good for butterflies and log or stone piles can benefit insects. Put up nest boxes and bat boxes in suitable locations. (Scottish Agricultural College is providing tree sparrow and barn owl nest boxes and advice on where to put them up to farmers and crofters with suitable habitats.) If you have space, dig a garden pond with gently sloping sides and shallow parts. Grow to organic principles. (Information on organic gardening is available from the Henry Doubleday Research Association) Compost all your garden and vegetable waste. Request and buy alternatives to peat-based composts and other products from local garden centres. Shop locally: Buy locally grown and / or organically produced meat and vegetables were possible. Make sure any wood products you buy carry an accredited logo, such as the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). Reduce pollution: Pick up litter and encourage people not to drop litter. Plastic containers, tin cans and discarded fishing line & nets can cause particular damage as they are not biodegradable and can trap or suffocate birds and mammals. Use biodegradable cleaning products and washing powder, and use less bleach and harmful cleaning products at home and in the garden. Dispose of hazardous substances such as oil, turpentine and acid wisely (i.e. not down the plughole, information on correct disposal methods is available from the Waste Strategy and Management Team, The Highland Council, Dingwall.) Don t flush non-biodegradable items down the toilet. Don t forget the larger, global issues such as reducing waste and using less energy. Contact details for the Groups listed above are given in Annex What s Next?

79 Business Actions Businesses can take action for biodiversity, often at no cost or low cost and sometimes actions that benefit the environment can help save costs by reducing energy or waste products. Here are some examples of how you can help: Conduct a wildlife survey of your site and learn what lives in the nearby area. Invite local experts to take part, and ensure that you are not damaging any habitats and take steps to improve your local environment. Hold team building conservation activities to improve habitats and raise awareness of the environment amongst your staff. Set up staff award schemes and use their environmental actions to improve morale and create good publicity. Take part in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency s Habitat Enhancement Initiative, which gives grants for positive environmental works. Create links with local groups and school grounds projects offer support in kind or to sponsor a particular aspect. Become a Biodiversity Champion of a local species or habitat, e.g. Tesco champions the skylark. Register with the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), which aims to reward organisations that strive to improve their environmental performance. Strive to achieve ISO accreditation by minimising your environmental impacts. Classroom Actions Schools can get involved with biodiversity both indoors and out, and here s how: Get involved in recording survey birds at the bird table, when you see the first hazel catkin, etc. has an eye-catching recording format suitable for all ages. Invite local rangers, environmentalists and land managers to speak to the class, host visits and lead activities regularly. Get involved in some of the national survey days like the Big Garden Bird Watch, which takes place in January or National Moth Night and Day, in May. Start school grounds projects incorporating wildlife gardens, hides or wild corners and have an outdoor classroom. Scottish Natural Heritage and the Easter Ross Ranger Service offers advice and funding. Share information about successful projects with other schools and classes some schools take turns in writing environmental news on their websites or in their newsletters. Land Management Actions This Plan contains lots of suggested actions for biodiversity, and the freshwater, farm & croft land, woodland and mountain & moorland sections will hopefully have given you some ideas of how you can help. Here are some of them: Manage river banks to benefit wildlife, improve fishing and prevent erosion by providing watering troughs and fencing off stock, and by planting broadleaved trees like willow and alder to stabilise banks and give shade and cover for fish. Leave a strip of uncultivated and unsprayed land at the edges of fields to act as a beetle bank or wildlife corridor. Restructure your woodlands to include broadleaved species and open space, and leave some standing and fallen dead wood, which is good for invertebrates, birds and small mammals. Draft a moorland management plan to help you decide on stocking levels, muirburning and access, which takes the biodiversity of the area into account. The Rural Stewardship Scheme provides funding for all of the above actions, and the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme will provide funding for new woodland actions. What s Next? 73

80 Local Authority and Agency Actions Again, this Plan contains a lot of suggestions for actions that could be undertaken by agencies and local authorities. Here are some of them: Undertake a biodiversity audit to pull together existing information from local groups and national bodies and identify gaps in our collective knowledge, and initiate an accessible fund for future survey work. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Forestry Commission Scotland, Highland Biological Recording Group) Establish a centralised database a new Highland Biological Records Centre to act as a contact point for anyone requiring further information. (Suggested partners: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Highland Biological Recording Group) Develop educative materials for primary, secondary and tertiary courses that focus on local biodiversity and examine the threats and current / future actions relating to specific species and habitats. Examine the primary and secondary curricula (5-14 and Higher Still courses) and identify opportunities to raise awareness about local biodiversity. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education & Ranger Services, Scottish Natural Heritage) Appoint a teacher / biologist to write suitable materials relating to case studies of local biodiversity, identify and integrate with individuals in local agencies who could be approached to talk to pupils and provide data, and identify suitable sites and sources of funding for field trips and projects. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Education & Ranger Services, Scottish Natural Heritage) Encourage projects that re-establish links between isolated habitats. For example, the Black Isle Partnership s work on wildlife corridors. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission, land managers) Eradicate alien pest species such as Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and mink. Control other species such as bracken and whins, which although beneficial for biodiversity in small areas, are detrimental when they take over as blanket coverage. (Suggested partners: Highland Council Roads Department, BEAR Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, land managers) Encourage liaison between groups and funding bodies to consider joint applications for funding across administrative boundaries. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage) Employ a biodiversity officer to help implement the Plan. (Suggested partners: Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage) Next Steps This plan has been prepared under the auspices of the Highland Biodiversity Project, which is a partnership project funded by The Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise and RSPB Scotland. The partner organisations have agreed to work up a funding proposal for a second phase, focusing on the delivery of the Action Plans, perhaps through a local biodiversity grants scheme. If the funding can be secured, it is hoped that this second phase could begin in April In the meantime, it is envisaged that the partners listed above and in Annex 1 of this report will undertake many of the projects suggested in the Future actions sections. 74 What s Next?

81 Annex 1: Contact Details Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest : Contact details: Alness Environmental Group Alness Walking Group Bat Conservation Trust BEAR Scotland Biological Recording in Scotland Black Isle Partnership Botanical Society of the British Isles British Dragonfly Society British Trust for Conservation Volunteers British Trust for Ornithology A voluntary group that provide and maintain the floral displays and flower beds, cut grass, collect litter and work to look after the environment in Alness as well as the wider area. Pilot walking for health group in Ross-shire. Organise walks in the local area. Information on bats, bat habitats, bat boxes and conservation. Manages and maintains the Trunk Roads of North West and North East Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Executive. Promote the gathering of environmental data, initiate projects and circulate information to help the recording community in Scotland. Provides a single voice for the whole of the Black Isle bringing together the views of the local community councils, local people, local employers, and those with an interest in the well-being of the area. Holder of the botanical records for the area. Information on dragonfly habitats, training of volunteers in identification & collation of dragonfly records. Volunteer participation in practical conservation activities, can work with communities to deliver local environmental projects & provide insurance for such works. Investigate the populations, movements and ecology of wild birds, organise annual breeding and winter bird surveys locally. Carolyn Wilson, 27 High Street, Alness IV17 0UX Tel: Dr S Campbell, 60 Obsdale Park, Alness IV17 0TR Tel: Inveralmond Road, Inveralmond Industrial Estate, Perth PH1 3TW Tel: Bill Taylor, Chairman, Community Education Office, Fortrose IV10 8TJ Millbank Road, Munlochy, Inverness IV8 8ND Tel: Annexes 75

82 Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest: Butterfly Conservation (Scotland) Encourage surveying and monitoring of butterflies and moths, and advise on habitat management for priority species. Contact details: Tom Prescott, Kingussie (HQ: Balallan House, Allan Park, Stirling FK8 2QG) Tel: Community Toolkit Conon District Salmon Fishery Board Deer Commission Scotland Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group Forestry Commission Froglife Grounds for Learning Can help organisations find solutions to a range of problems and issues. Specifically designed for community groups and is based on common themes identified by local voluntary groups from around Inverness and Nairn. Responsible for the management of the wild salmon stocks of the rivers running into the Cromarty Firth. The Board carries out research and survey programmes to support its hatchery and habitat management programmes as well as fishery protection work. Provide advice on deer management and welfare issues. Provide advice to farmers, crofters and landowners on conservation projects and agrienvironmental grants. Administer the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme, which provides woodland management and expansion incentives for private woodland owners, and regulate and control works through Felling Licence and Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. Provide habitat advice about amphibians and reptiles in gardens and the wider countryside, and encourage their recording. Provide advice, contacts, programmes, grant and award schemes tailored for Scottish schools, for the improvement of school grounds for education, biodiversity and enjoyment. Conon District Salmon Fishery Board, CKD Galbraith, 45 Church Street, Inverness, IV1 1DR Knowsley, 82 Fairfield Road, Inverness IV3 5LH Tel: Fran Lockhart, Glaikmore, North Kessock, Inverness IV1 1XD Tel: Willie Beattie, Fodderty Way, Dingwall IV15 9XB Tel: Annexes

83 Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest : Henry Doubleday Research Association Dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food. Contact details: Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 3LG Highland Biodiversity Project Highland Biological Recording Group Highland Birchwoods Highland Council Ranger Service Highland Council Sustainable Development Officer Highland Council Waste Strategy & Management Team Highland Ringing Group Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board Responsible for the preparation and implementation of Local Biodiversity Action Plans in Highland. Record biological information individually and through coordinated atlas projects, surveys, field trips and events. Works through partnership to deliver: local economic, environmental and social benefits; integrated forest management and product innovation; new resource information to support strategic rural development. Run a programme of environmental education events and guided walks, run practical conservation projects, and give advice on access and conservation issues. Provides advice on sustainability issues and appropriate community action. Provides information on the correct disposal of waste and hazardous substances. Comprises volunteers in the inner Moray Firth area who monitor bird populations in the area. Most of the monitoring work is done via bird ringing on behalf of the British Trust for Ornithology. Shorebirds, seabirds, raptors and farmland species are currently all monitored by the group. Provides, for visitors, the definitive listing of accommodation in the area, details of places to go, activities, events, maps, guides to areas within the Scottish Highlands and travel, transport and car hire information. Janet Bromham, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX Tel: Jonathan Watt, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Wynd, Inverness IV2 3EB Tel: Littleburn, Munlochy IV8 8NN Tel: Martin Hind, The Highland Council, North Kessock Tourist Information Office, North Kessock IV1 1XB, Tel: Una Lee, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX, Tel: Ross House, High Street, Dingwall IV15 9RY Tel: Secretary: Bob Swann, 14 St.Vincent Road, Tain, Ross-shire IV19 1JR Peffery House, Strathpeffer IV14 9HA, Tel: Annexes 77

84 Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest: Invergordon Environmental Group Devoted to improving the Invergordon environment through for example providing hedges and paths and tidying gateways. Contact details: Alan Maclennan - Chairman/ Secretary c/o The Highland Council Service Point, 62 High Street, Invergordon IV18 0DH Inverness Bat Group Marine Conservation Society Milton Community Woodland Trust Moray Firth Partnership Muir of Ord Environmental Group National Farmers Union of Scotland National Trust for Scotland The group aims to promote interest, investigate and protect these remarkable, but endangered, mammals through survey and educational work and runs a programme of bat walks, talks and other activities throughout the year, membership is free and open to anyone fascinated by bats. Run a number of volunteer coastal and marine projects including beachwatch and seasearch. Aim to continue the sustainable management of their woodland, in ways that will benefit the local community (where community is defined as all living things). This is achieved through for example, maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitat, encouraging and supporting community participation in environmental education, promoting positive health and healing through woodland activities and natural resources. Provide advice on management of marine and coastal habitats in the Moray Firth, and run a small environmental scheme. A group of local people that have got together to protect, promote and preserve the environment around Muir of Ord. Provide information on agricultural matters and representation on behalf of members. A conservation charity that protects and promotes Scotland s natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations to enjoy. Jonathan Watt, c/o Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Castle Wynd, Inverness IV2 3EB Calum Duncan, 3 Coates Place, Edinburgh EH3 7AA Tel: Munro Crescent, Milton, Kildary, Ross-shire IV18 0PQ 27 Ardconnel Terrace, Inverness IV2 3AE Tel: Joolz Christie, 2 Seafield Cottages, Tarradale, Muir of Ord IV6 7RS Balnain House, 40 Huntley Street, Inverness IV3 5UR Tel: Annexes

85 Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest : North Highland Forest Trust Provide advice and assistance on woodland biodiversity and community woodland projects. Contact details: Stuart Smith, Alba House, Main Street, Golspie KW10 6TG Northern Constabulary Plantlife Ross & Cromarty Enterprise Ross-shire Waste Action Network Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scottish Agricultural College Scottish & Southern Energy Scottish Crofting Foundation Responsible for enforcement of wildlife conservation legislation and combating wildlife crime. All concerns regarding wildlife crime should be reported to the local police station first. Acts to stop common wild plants becoming rare in the wild, to rescue wild plants on the brink of extinction, and to protect sites of exceptional botanical importance by practical conservation work, and influencing policy and legislation. Provide advice and support for environmental projects and community-led works. A community waste group involved in waste minimisation, recycling, composting, education and awareness-raising. Provides advice and assistance on the conservation of wild birds and their habitats, especially declining, threatened or rare species. Provide advice to farmers, crofters and land owners on wildlife habitat improvement, and help prepare and submit Rural Stewardship Scheme applications. Energy company involved in the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity to industrial, commercial and domestic customers; energy trading; gas marketing; electrical and utility contracting and telecommunications. Promotes the benefits that crofting brings to its communities, as well as to the wider public. Wildlife Crime Officer, The Police Station, Obsdale Road, Alness IV17 0TU Tel: RoWAN, 30 Millbank Road, Munlochy, Ross-shire IV8 8ND Tel: Kenna Chisholm, Etive House, Beechwood Park, Inverness Tel: Gillian McKnight, Drummondhill, Stratherrick Road, Inverness Tel: Inveralmond House, 200 Dunkeld Road, Perth PH1 3AQ Old Mill, Broadford, Isle of Skye IV49 9AQ, Tel: Annexes 79

86 Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest : Scottish Environmental Protection Agency Regularly monitor and classify coastal waters, rivers and lochs, deal with pollution incidents and provide advice and, through its Habitat Enhancement Initiative, provides guidance and support on the creation and best management of wildlife habitats. Contact details: Tel: (24 hour pollution emergency number) Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department Scottish Native Woods Scottish Natural Heritage Scottish Ornithologists Club Scottish Rural Property & Business Association Scottish Water Scottish Wildlife Trust Advises on and implements policy relating to agriculture, rural development, food, the environment and fisheries. Dedicated to the conservation of native woodlands in Scotland. Key activities: securing the sustainable management of native woodlands; increasing awareness and understanding of native woodlands; strengthening the contribution made by native woodlands to the economy; advising and influencing government policy. Provide advice and assistance on protected species and designated areas, grant-aid practical biodiversity and awarenessraising projects. Brings together amateur birdwatchers, keen birders and research ornithologists with the aims of documenting, studying and enjoying Scotland s varied birdlife. The local Club collects and collates bird records for Caithness. Formerly Scottish Landowners Federation. Representative body for rural property owners and land-based businesses in Scotland. Provides water and waste water services to household and business customers across Scotland. Provide advice on habitat management, identification of areas of high biodiversity and conservation volunteer activities. John Parrott, The Old School, Errogie, Inverness-shire IV2 6UH Fodderty Way, Dingwall Business Park, Dingwall IV15 9XB Tel: Harbour Point, Newhailes Road, Musselburgh EH21 6SJ Tel: Stuart House, Eskmills Business Park, Musselburgh EH21 7PB Tel: Fax: Unit 4A, 3 Carsegate Road North, Inverness IV3 8DU Tel: Annexes

87 Organisation / Group: What they can help with / Interest : Step It Up Highland Promote the many benefits of walking for health and develop walking opportunities. Contact them to find out about your local walking group. Contact details: Carole Lloyd or Ian McNeil, Volunteering Highland, The Gateway, 1a Millburn Road, Inverness Tel: healthwalks.htm Tain & District Field Club Tain Initiative Group The Mammal Society World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Aims to further the knowledge of natural history in the local area by: biological surveying and recording; assisting with conservation projects; arranging lectures; visiting sites of biological interest. A voluntary community organisation, a Scottish Charity, set up to develop environmental, social, sports and recreational projects for the benefit of the community of Tain and the surrounding area. Organise mammal surveys and work to protect British mammals, to halt the decline of threatened species. WWF s mission in Scotland is to build long-term solutions to environmental problems for the benefit of people and nature. Sean Meikle, Fiona Robertson, Tain Initiative Group, 1st Floor, Tain Highland Council Service Point, 24 High Street, Tain, Ross-shire IV19 1AE Tel/Fax: WWF Scotland, 8 The Square, Aberfeldy, Perthshire PH15 2DD Tel: Fax: Annexes 81

88 Annex 2: References & Sources of Further Information Scottish Executive (2004) Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Executive (2004) Scotland s Biodiversity, It s In Your Hands: A strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Biodiversity Forum (2004) An Overview of the Implementation Plans, The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Executive (2003) Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Executive (2003) The Rural Stewardship Scheme. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Biodiversity Forum (2003) Towards a Strategy for Scotland s Biodiversity: Indicators for the State of Scotland s Biodiversity. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Biodiversity Forum (2003) Towards a Strategy for Scotland s Biodiversity: Scotland s Resource & Trends. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scotland s Moorland Forum (2003) Principles of Moorland Management. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Preston, CD, Pearman, DA & Dines, TD (Eds) (2002) New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora. Oxford University Press Scottish Natural Heritage (2002) Natural Heritage Futures documents The Scottish Biodiversity Group (2001) A Flying Start: Local Biodiversity Action in Scotland. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Scottish Executive (2001) The Muirburn Code: A Guide to Best Practice. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh The Scottish Biodiversity Group (2000) Action for Scotland s Biodiversity. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh The Scottish Biodiversity Group (1999) Local Biodiversity Action Plans: A Manual and Guidance Notes. CoSLA, Edinburgh The Scottish Biodiversity Group (1997) Biodiversity in Scotland: The Way Forward. The Stationary Office Bookshop, Edinburgh Joint Nature Conservation Committee (1996) Coasts and Seas of the United Kingdom, Region 3 North-east Scotland: Cape Wrath to St Cyrus. Coastal Directory Series Joint Nature Conservation Committee Directory of the Celtic Coasts and Seas The UK Government (1994) Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan. HMSO, London The UK Government (1994) Sustainable Development: The UK Strategy. HMSO, London The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (1993) The Land Cover of Scotland 1988 (LCS88) UK Biodiversity Action Plan Tranche 2 Action Plans. English Nature, Peterborough Index to the Tranche 2 Action Plans Volume I: Vertebrates and Vascular Plants Volume II: Terrestrial and Freshwater Habitats Volume III: Plants and Fungi Volume IV: Invertebrates Volume VI: Terrestrial and Freshwater Species and Habitats 82 Annexes

89 Annex 3: Glossary A acoustic agri-environment all-terrain vehicle amphibian aquatic arthropod B biodegradable biodiversity brackish bryophyte C calcareous catchment cetacean clearfell coarse fish coastal defences common grazing community conifer crustacean culvert D deciduous Deer Management Plan diffuse diurnal diversification dredging E ecosystem electrofishing environment eutrophic extensive of sound or hearing linkage between the rearing of crops and livestock and the surrounding environment light vehicle with many low pressure tyres or caterpillar tracks that spread the weight and make it easier to cross boggy areas a vertebrate, such as a newt, frog or toad, that lives on land but breeds in water growing or living in water a creature, such as an insect or spider, which has jointed legs and a hard case on its body capable of being decomposed by natural means biological diversity, the variety of all living things slightly salty a moss or liverwort of or containing calcium carbonate the area of land draining into a river, basin or reservoir member of an order of aquatic mammals having no hind limbs, front limbs modified into paddles, and a blowhole for breathing, includes whales, dolphins and porpoises an area where all the trees have been felled any freshwater fish that is not of the salmon family natural or man-made barriers to slow down or halt erosion from the sea piece of rough grazing land shared between two or more people a group of independent plants and animals inhabiting the same region a tree or shrub bearing cones and evergreen leaves, such as pine, spruce, fir or larch usually aquatic arthropod with a hard outer shell and several pairs of legs, such as the lobster, crab or shrimp a drain or covered channel that crosses under a road or railway a tree or shrub which sheds its leaves annually, such as birch or oak a plan drawn up by the local Deer Management Group to agree culling targets amongst neighbouring estates spread out over a wide area (diffuse pollution: no single point source) in or of day / daytime to vary products or operations in order to spread risk or expand the process of scooping or sucking up material from the seabed or a riverbed a system involving the interactions between a community and its non-living environment method of surveying fish by stunning them with an electrical pulse the external surroundings in which a plant or animal lives, which influence its development describes lochs with high nutrient levels (agricultural context) widespread, designed to spread impacts over a large area F fauna fen fence marking Annexes all the animal life of a given place or time peatland that receives water and nutrients from the soil, rock and groundwater as well as from rainfall the act of making a fence more visible to avoid bird collisions from e.g. black grouse 83

90 fertiliser flora Forest Habitat Network fry G genetic purity genus geomorphology Gulf Stream H habitat hatchery herbicide hybrid I in-bye Indicative Forest Strategy insecticide inshore intensive interpretation invasive invertebrate L ley M mammal mesotrophic mollusc muirburning any substance, such as manure, added to soil to increase its productivity all the plant life of a given place or time a concept to link forest habitats for the benefit of woodland species the young of various species of fish where the internal characteristics of an organism come from one source alone a group into which a family of animals or plants is divided and which contains one or more species the study of the shapes and processes of the earth a warm oceanic current originating in the gulf of Mexico that travels northeast as the North Atlantic Drift to warm the west coast of Scotland the natural home of an animal or plant place where fish eggs are hatched to produce fry or parr for restocking a chemical that destroys plants, especially weeds an animal or plant resulting from a cross between two different types of animal or plant grazing or arable land, usually close to the croft or farm steading a planning tool used by local authorities and agencies to help site new woodlands away from sensitive areas a substance used to destroy insect pests in or on the water but close to the shore (inshore fisheries: within 12 miles of the shore) (agricultural context) designed to increase production from a particular area explanation provided by the use of original objects, visual display material, etc. spreading uncontrollably, taking over, replacing natural community any animal without a backbone, such as an insect, worm or mollusc land temporarily under grass any warm-blooded vertebrate animal, the female of which produces milk to feed her young describes lochs with intermediate nutrient levels an invertebrate with a soft, unsegmented body and often a shell (group includes snails, slugs, clams, mussels and squid) the controlled strip-burning of heather moorland to create new shoots for grouse, deer or sheep to eat N natural regeneration non-native nutrient budgeting nutrient enrichment O oligotrophic out-bye overgraze seeding of plants, especially trees, without direct interference by man a non-indigenous animal or plant, not of local origin the allocation of nutrients (especially fertilisers) to particular areas for particular purposes, to minimise wastage and environmental impacts an increase or improvement in the substances providing nourishment to a water body, sometimes resulting in a change in the chemistry and corresponding loss in naturally occurring species describes lochs with low nutrient levels, such as the dubh lochans in the peatlands rough grazing land, usually far from the croft or farm steading to graze land too intensely so that it is damaged and no longer provides nourishment or (if an area is managed for woodland) so that trees cannot regenerate or grow 84 Annexes

91 P parasitic parr passerine pest pesticide plankton plateau R raptor recreation reedbed reseed riparian roost S salmonid sea lice second rotation sessile sheep dip siltation silviculture Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) smolt spawning beds Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Special Protection Area (SPA) species standing deadwood U upland V vertebrate W wader waterfowl weed wildfire wildfowl woodland restructuring the process of one animal or plant living in or on another from which it obtains its nourishment the intermediate stage of a salmonid fish between fry and smolt a songbird or perching bird any organism that damages crops, or irritates livestock or man a chemical used for killing pests, especially insects organisms inhabiting the surface layer of a sea or loch, consisting of small drifting animals or plants a wide mainly level area of elevated land a bird of prey refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment, or an activity that promotes this wetland dominated by stands of the common reed Phragmites australis, where the water table is at or above ground level for most of the year a crop, especially grass, that has been sown of or on the bank of a river or stream a place, such as a perch, where birds rest or sleep fish from the salmon family (includes salmon, trout & char) a fish parasite the second crop of trees grown on a plantation a plant with flowers or leaves but no stalk / an animal fixed in one position a liquid disinfectant and insecticide in which sheep are immersed to fill or choke up with silt (a fine sediment of mud or clay deposited by moving water) the cultivation of forest trees an area designated under UK legislation for its nature conservation interest young salmon at the stage when it migrates from freshwater to the sea the location where fish, amphibians or molluscs lay eggs an area designated under European legislation (the Habitats Directive) for its nature conservation interest an area designated under European legislation (the Birds Directive) for its wild bird interest any of the groups into which a genus is divided, the members of which are able to interbreed dead trees left standing or lying to support fungi and invertebrates an area of high or relatively high ground any animal with a backbone, such as a mammal, fish, bird or amphibian a long-legged bird that lives near water or in a wetland bird that lives on or near water, especially one that swims such as a duck or swan any plant that grows wild and profusely, especially one that grows among cultivated plants out-of-control fire started accidentally or through out-of-control muirburning, which can rage over vast areas and threaten woodlands, roads or even houses any game bird the process of changing the structure of a woodland to allow more internal space and diversity of tree species Annexes 85

92 Janet Bromham Highland Biodiveristy Officer The Highland Council Planning & Development Service Glenurquhart Road Inverness IV3 5NX The Skye & Lochalsh Biodiversity Action Plan

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