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Unique woodland conservation scheme helps black grouse recovery

30 January 2008

James Reynolds
Head of Media and Communications
E-mail: james.reynolds@rspb.org.uk

The population of black grouse has dramatically increased over the past six years at two upland sites involved in projects undertaken by the Scottish Forest Alliance (SFA) - a unique woodland conservation project uniting BP, RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Woodland Trust Scotland.

Numbers of the striking, charismatic game birds have increased from 35 to 57 at the RSPB's Corrimony reserve from 2002 to 2007. Numbers at Forestry Commission Scotland's Glenmore Forest are also thought to have at least doubled over the same period, with the most recent count spotting 28 birds in the area.

SFA funding has contributed to extensive conservation management at both sites. Protecting and enhancing the black grouse habitats has brought about a significant upturn in the fortunes of the species.

In the UK the black grouse has experienced massive declines in both range and numbers since the early 90s due to loss and degradation of its favoured open woodland habitat. As recently as 1991 there were estimated to be 25,000 pairs. At the last census there were only 5,000 pairs counted.

Black grouse are now confined to remoter upland areas with the great majority of birds found in the Highlands

Black grouse are now confined to remoter upland areas with the great majority of birds found in the Highlands, but with small pockets remaining in Dumfries and Galloway, the northern Pennines of England and a small population in Wales.

At Corrimony deer fences were removed and exotic plantation trees were felled - opening up the woodland structure and creating areas for planting with native trees. Areas of damaged wetland were also restored and numbers of deer lowered to reduce their browsing on young saplings and natural regeneration.

Since 2006 about 40 hectares - equivalent to 65 football fields - have been planted at Corrimony with 14,000 native Scots pine and 27,000 native broadleaves including birch, willow, rowan, hazel, alder and aspen - providing more ideal habitat for black grouse that will further boost their numbers in coming years.

Glenmore Forest's one remaining deer fence was marked to make it more clearly visible to black grouse and lessen the collision risk. Natural regeneration increased the upper tree line at the site, creating new areas of young woodland at higher elevations.

It is hoped that further work funded by the SFA will continue to help black grouse recover, giving them a mosaic of linked, varying habitats that allow them places to feed, display and roost in safety.

Andrew Fairbairn, development manager at the Woodland Trust Scotland and chairman of the SFA communications group, said: 'It's fantastic news that the huge benefits of the SFA project and BP's investment are starting to pay rich dividends. Black grouse are one of our most threatened species - on the UK Red List of conservation species due to their massive decline in range, listed as a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and included within the Scottish Executive's Species Action Framework.

'These increases are a real measure of the additional benefits to biodiversity and wildlife that the SFA project is bringing. Across Scotland we have planted millions of trees, and encouraged millions more to regenerate. We hope that this success will be mirrored at all SFA sites in the coming years, and play a major part in helping the recovery of this species.'

A spokesman for Forestry Commission Scotland said: 'The welcome increase in black grouse numbers at Glenmore is very encouraging. Conservation of habitats and species is a major part of the Commission's work and it is great to have our efforts rewarded with progress like this. We'll certainly be building on this success and we're looking forward to seeing even more black grouse in Glenmore years to come.'

Notes

Media contacts:

  • Andrew Fairbairn, Woodland Trust Scotland: 01738 635829 or andrewfairbairn@woodland-trust.org.uk 
  • James Reynolds, RSPB Scotland: 0131 311 6505 or james.reynolds@rspb.org.uk 
  • Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland: 0131 314 6507 or paul.munro@forestry.gsi.gov.uk 
  • Joanne MacDonald, BP: 01224 832030 or joanne.mcdonald@uk.bp.com  

Notes to Editors 

Scottish Forest Alliance (SFA)

The SFA is a unique woodland conservation project uniting BP, RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Woodland Trust.

BP's financial support for the SFA represents Scotland's biggest ever corporate commitment to the environment, and is one of the largest tree planting and native woodland restoration programmes in recent years. In 2000 BP pledged £10 million over ten years in support of the SFA project. The funding, together with additional match funding the project is attracting, is helping to restore the rich diversity of flora, fauna and the habitats on which they depend, that once flourished in Scotland's native woodlands.

Aims of SFA

The collaboration will:

regenerate and expand native woodland in Scotland
contribute towards UK targets for forest and woodland biodiversity
promote social and economic gains for local communities
seek to determine the contribution of the projects to carbon sequestration in Scotland


2. Main Statistics

- Total area of new tree cover created so far: 2,864 hectares (2,060 hectares of new planted trees, and 804 hectares created through natural regeneration) the equivalent of some 3,820 football pitches
- Area of potential new tree cover over ten-year life of SFA project: 7,614 hectares
- Number of new trees so far: 3,065,770 (both planted and through natural regeneration)
- Potential number of new trees over ten-year life of SFA project: 7,191,000

- New paths created and maintained at SFA sites so far: 55.5 kilometres

- Across the fourteen SFA project sites, an average of 432,000 visitors are being exposed to the SFA project and its aims each year – an average of 1184 visitors every day of each year.

3. SFA Project Sites

- Abernethy – Strathspey: An RSPB Scotland site comprising 13,700 hectares of mountain, moorland and forest running northwards from the Cairngorm mountains
- Barclye – Galloway: An RSPB Scotland site covering a 391 hectare hill farm immediately next to the RSPB's Wood of Cree ancient and native woodland reserve
- Corrimony – Loch Ness: An RSPB Scotland site comprising1,530 hectare of reserve land approximately 10 miles west of Drumnadrochit
- Darroch Wids - Huntly: A Forestry Commission Scotland site covering 500 hectares on the south and east edges of the Clashindarroch Forest, near Huntly
- Drumbow & Crossrigg - Falkirk: A 193 hectare Forestry Commission Scotland site near Falkirk
- Geordie's Wood – the Ochils: A 247 hectare Woodland Trust Scotland site in the Ochil hills close to the village of Muckhart
- Glenmore Forest Park – Strathspey: A 3,500 hectare Forestry Commission Scotland site at the heart of the new Cairngorms National Park
- Glen Finglas - Trossachs: A 4,085 hectare Woodland Trust Scotland site at the heart of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
- Glen Quey – the Ochils: A 383 hectare Woodland Trust Scotland site on the south-facing slopes of the Ochil hills
- Glen Sherup – the Ochils: A Woodland Trust Scotland site, covering 605 hectares in the Ochil hills, near Glen Quey
- Inversnaid – Loch Lomond: A 448 hectare RSPB Scotland site on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond
- Kinloch Hills – Skye: A 7,400 hectare Forestry Commission Scotland site covering the eastern headland of Skye
- Loch Katrine: A 9,500 hectare Forestry Commission Scotland site on the banks of Loch Katrine