More action is needed urgently to improve the condition of Scotland’s most important nature conservation areas, according to RSPB Scotland. This will require new sources of funding and enhanced partnership working.
The wildlife conservation charity issued the plea following a new report published today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) showing that the condition of these areas has continued to decline over the past year.
65.5% of Scotland’s protected sites are assessed as being in ‘favourable’ condition according to the report – a drop from 2007 when 67.5% were judged to be in this category. This means that one in every five designated sites remains in ‘poor’ condition.
Funding availability remains a significant barrier to delivering improvements to break the stagnation in condition for both public and voluntary sector organisations. Whilst a lot of positive action has been taken and some species and habitats are recovering, it is clear that we are collectively struggling to make a step change in condition.
The report comes just one week after the UN released its Global Assessment on nature, which showed that our natural world is experiencing unprecedented rates of decline, putting 1 million species at risk of extinction in the next few decades.
In response to the urgency and gravity of these shocking findings, a debate in the Scottish Parliament led to the First Minister declaring her government’s ambition to be an international leader on tackling biodiversity loss.
Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “Protected areas provide a vast range of significant public benefits from services like water quality and carbon storage, to connecting people with nature and contributing to local economies through wildlife tourism. They also play a crucial role in the fight against biodiversity loss, safeguarding our most important species and habitats from damaging development and land use.
“Unless more resources are given to looking after protected areas then we won’t make the step change needed to restore our network to its full potential, which will also build resilience against future change.”
RSPB Scotland is worried that birds in particular are faring worse than they were last year. Seabirds and waders are increasingly affected by wider offsite pressures that require urgent attention and investment by the Scottish Government.
Anne McCall continued: “It is also clear that protected areas are insufficient on their own for tackling declines in nature. Land outside of these sites needs to be used in more sustainable ways, through a National Ecological Network for Scotland that would reconnect and restore habitats and encourage biodiversity to return to the wider countryside.
“There are still many species and habitats that can be improved through on-site conservation measures. SNH’s data helps to identify the biggest priorities for this collective action - tackling invasive species, overgrazing and water management, improving the condition of our woodlands and wetlands.”
Anne Concluded: “RSPB Scotland is doing all it can to help wildlife on the land we manage, much of which is on protected sites. We are also working in partnership with SNH and others to collectively tackle the biggest challenges facing nature here."
Last Updated: Monday 13 May 2019