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Woodland species

In 2000 the Scottish Forestry Strategy (SFS) adopted the native woodland Habitat Action Plans (HAP) of the UKBAP. These plans have wide support and were incorporated within the recent Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Over the next decade or so they aim to reverse the gradual decline in native woodlands. The targets are:

  • Look after and improve the condition of native woods (particularly for ancient semi-natural woods and those that have been designated for conservation);
  • Expand the native woodland resource on to unforested land and by conversion from conifer plantation; and
  • Restore native woodland to many of the ancient woodland sites which were planted with non-native trees in the 20 th century (Forestry Commission, 2005).

The existing SFS's implementation plan also includes an action to review the management of genetic resources. A large part of Scotland ’s forest resource is of Sitka spruce, sourced and selected with an eye for timber from particular parts of its natural range in North America . Remnant native woodlands, on the other hand, provide good sources of local-origin genetic material.

However, some woodland species are not restricted to native or semi-natural woods and will benefit from improvements to the wider forest resource. The decline in Capercaillie, for example, is being tackled not only through enhancing the Caledonian pine remnants but also through the "restructuring" of appropriate plantations to provide new Capercaillie habitat such as thickets for young birds and mature stands for lekking. Deer fences, which can kill or injure low flying birds, are being re-sited, marked or removed.

The 2000 SFS introduced the idea of habitat networks. The aim is that new or restored native woodland should expand existing areas and link woods together. One of the key factors in the habitat network concept is the development of woodlands along and around watercourses. Core forests, green corridors and woodland links are the components of a forest habitat network (FCS and SNH, 2003).

13% of Scotland 's land area is designated as SSSIs. The most significant change in habitat in the 1990s was the decline of semi-natural habitats by 88,900 ha and the increase in intensively used agricultural land by 36,700 ha. By 2002, from 173 BAP species and 31 BAP habitats considered, 29% of the habitats and 18% of the species were in decline.

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