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Scottish Environment LINK - The voice of Scotland's environment movement




In 1992, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity recognized the need to protect biodiversity. The UK was one of the 150 countries to sign up to the convention, and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) was published in 1994 to develop strategies to protect biological diversity. In Scotland , this is implemented via the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (Scottish Executive, 2004) which is overseen by The Scottish Biodiversity Forum.

The "Custodians of Change" report of the Agriculture and Environment working group in 2002 concluded that biodiversity and habitat protection was one of the three priority environmental issues for Scottish agriculture for the next 5-10 years (the others being diffuse pollution to water and landscape change). One of the recommendations was that: "The Executive, its agencies, local authorities and the agricultural industry should focus attention upon, and allocate sufficient resources to ensure that a fully integrated approach to natural heritage and land management is promulgated. In particular, attention will need to be given to implementing Local Biodiversity Action Plans." (Scottish Executive, 2002)

The initial strategy for conservation was for SNH and its predecessor organisation to designate valuable (small, vulnerable) habitats and sites supporting rare plant or animal species as nature reserves (Sites of Special Scientific Interest - SSSI). However, many SSSIs remained vulnerable to potentially damaging operations and insidious effects from adjacent agricultural land use, and the total species concerned was tiny compared with that in the wider countryside. This encouraged the establishment of prescription-based management agreements targeted at farms within defined areas of natural heritage value (Environmentally Sensitive Areas - ESAs). Thus a mechanism was provided to alter the management of the agricultural land to be sensitive to the natural heritage character of specific areas (Birnie et al., 2004).

Under the UKBAP, Action Plans are developed to protect biodiversity. Originally, work concentrated on protecting small areas of vulnerable habitats and the species that they supported (SSSIs); this has since been extended to improved management agreements on farms within wider areas of natural heritage value.

Broad habitat change >>