Nature Restoration Fund Priorities for Action
In launching the £55 million Nature Restoration Fund, The First Minister of Scotland said:
“Today’s investment is our biggest ever grant scheme specifically targeted at nature restoration, reaffirming our commitment to addressing the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change. Most importantly, following the UK government’s withdrawal from the EU Life scheme, it will enable large-scale, multi-year, projects of the kind which are simply not possible with annual grants.”
“We have reached a critical juncture for action – with the hosting of COP26 here in Glasgow and COP15 in Kunming, China next spring – and we in Scotland are playing a leading role. Through our leadership of the Edinburgh Process we are working to build commitment among governments around the world to raise the ambition at next year’s COP15 international biodiversity summit, in line with our own goal to halt the ongoing loss of nature by 2030.”
The Scottish Government and its partners are working to prepare a revised Scottish Biodiversity Strategy reflecting these commitments. This will be published in autumn 2022. However, the scale of the challenges facing us were highlighted in May 2019 when the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) described the prevalence of five direct drivers that are causing the loss of biodiversity and substantially reducing what nature can provide for people. This makes it clear that action for nature that tackles these drivers are a priority that cannot wait.
IPBES direct drivers of biodiversity loss
The IPBES direct drivers of biodiversity loss are:
- Land and sea-use change.
- Direct exploitation of organisms.
- Climate change and its impacts.
- Invasive non-native species (INNS).
Tacking these drivers are reflected in the Fund priority themes:
- Habitat and species restoration – management for enhancement and connectivity
- Freshwater restoration, including restoring natural flows in rural catchments
- Coastal and marine management to promote restoration and resilience
- Control of invasive non-native species impacting on nature
It is expected that these themes will be refreshed in future years to align with recommendations from the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.
Areas for action
The priority themes are similar to the Biodiversity Challenge Fund, which ran from 2019-2021 but there is an increased focus on nature in rural areas.
- Habitat and species restoration – management for enhancement and connectivity - halting the decline of pollinators and increasing habitat for amphibians, mammals and birds at risk by making more space for native flower-rich habitats and grassland, streams, extended hedges and field margins, native trees and ponds; supporting changes in management to favour diversity of species and habitat structure at a landscape level; adopting nature-based approaches to managing key ecosystems.
- Freshwater restoration, including restoring natural flows in rural catchments - natural flood management and surface water management solutions such as reconnecting rivers to floodplains; restoring water courses for example re-meandering, reprofiling and deculverting stretches of rivers/streams historically straightened; instream and bank works to increase habitats and/or reduce flow, erosion, sediment wash out and reduce water temperature increases; increasing lowland ponds and other water and wetland habitats.
- Control of invasive non-native species impacting on nature (INNS) - our top priority is preventing the establishment and spread of INNS into new areas. Offshore islands and water dominated environments are most at risk of INNS spread but they also spread easily along habitat corridors and in native woodlands.
- Coastal and marine management to promote restoration and resilience - supporting projects, working with industry or community partners where possible, that contribute to ecosystem based approaches to managing Scotland’s seas and Marine Protected Areas. This includes demonstration projects relating to the longer-term enhancement or recovery of the marine environment including those that will contribute to achieving Good Environmental Status. Applicants may find the Priority Marine Features (PMF) list useful in helping ensure their project aligns with priority habitats and species (see below).
For any applications on land where deer grazing pressure is an issue, you must provide detail within your proposal, on how deer numbers will be managed both within and immediately adjacent to the land proposed for work under NRF for at least the 10-year maintenance period.
The Nature Restoration Fund is largely a capital fund designed to deliver action on the ground. The development of strategic plans or new research is not considered a capital cost. Costs that can be funded include:
- Contractor costs for example to undertake detailed design or groundworks.
- Capital equipment, resources and materials (e.g. culverts, bridges, sluice, fencing, plants) that will deliver on the ground nature restoration as part of the overall project.
- Costs associated with training and skills development such as training providers, PPE.
- Staff costs inclusive of salary, National Insurance and Employee Pension Contributions.
- Where there are staff costs, organisational and overhead costs (Full Cost Recovery) to cover office accommodation, equipment and running costs and wider staff support (e.g. finance, IT). To note we cannot fund staff time to report on progress and claim NRF funds as set out above.
- Project staff travel and subsistence to cover staff and any volunteers supporting delivery of the project activities.
- Project evaluation - additional costs for measuring success and evaluating the project. Excludes project staff costs or ongoing survey and monitoring costs.
- Irrecoverable VAT relating to project costs and activities.
- Management fees - where applications are received from a partnership or organisations working collaboratively (but not costs associated with establishing any additional partnership governance to oversee implementation of the project).
The ‘Information for Applicants’ document provides further information on costs that are not considered eligible.
Targeted action – marine and terrestrial species
NatureScot, with partners, is working to develop a common approach to prioritising terrestrial species for conservation action in Scotland (see below which sets out the approach for marine species). Though the needs of species already listed in legislation are largely recognised, and should inform applications, the principles of this developing approach will be used to assess and prioritise proposals where action for specific species is included.
These principles are:
- The species being Critically Endangered, using International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria.
- Rates of decline.
- Distribution being geographically restricted to Scotland (endemism).
- Vulnerability to drivers of change.
- The probability of success of conservation action.
Where you propose to undertake action for a species that is not Critically Endangered, in addition to the above we will consider:
- International responsibility (including the % of GB population found in Scotland).
- Urgency of action.
- Historical/cultural importance.
The habitats and species on Scotland’s list of Priority Marine Features are being used by NatureScot to guide decisions on marine priorities for this Fund.
Targeted action – INNS
INNS applications must bring entire populations of INNS under control, demonstrate coordination and a collaborative approach across larger geographic/multiple ownership units, and be sustainable beyond the funding period (by e.g., eradicating populations or establishing costed sustainable control plans covering the 10-years maintenance period).
We will not support control projects without long term maintenance plans.
Priority will be given to:
- Projects that are of strategic, national importance, such as eradication from islands, preventing spread into uninvaded parts of the mainland, or helping to prevent INNS undermining the success of outcomes subject to investment in nature.
- Actions that are necessary to protect or restore a strategic asset such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), European site or water bodies at risk from INNS pressures
We will also consider biosecurity projects which put in place measures to manage pathways to prevent the introduction and establishment of priority invasive species.
The following INNS species are priorities for action within NRF:
- Rhododendron areas as identified in An approach to prioritising control of rhododendron in Scotland.
- Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) that are threatening protected areas.
- Giant rhubarb (Gunnera manticata) populations in the Western Isles.
- Problem mammals threatening ground nesting seabirds on off-shore islands.
- Prevention priority species are non-native species that aren’t yet established in Scotland, but are known to be highly invasive and are likely to arrive here soon.
- Carpet sea squirt Didemnum spp. (Didemnum vexillum), Japanese wakame (Undaria pinnatifida), leathery sea squirt (Styela clava) are present in Scotland but with restricted distribution. We are keen to encourage biosecurity projects to prevent the further establishment of these species.
Example projects (also shown in ‘Information for Applicants’ document)
Examples of projects that could be funded include:
- Natural flood management solutions, for example river based engineering works that reconnect rivers to rural floodplains
- Groundworks that create new habitat such as wetlands by re-meandering/re-profiling, deculverting stretches of previously straightened rural rivers/streams
- In–stream or river works such as installing woody debris and banking to increase habitats and reduce erosion, removing barriers to fish passage and other man made obstacles that negatively impact habitats and flood events
- Enhancing habitat linkages and habitat creation that increases connectivity at landscape scale, for example extending native species hedges on farmland.
- Deliver a programme of INNS control across multiple landowners that includes training of volunteers in treatment and control, enabling a long term programme of volunteer maintenance to be established beyond the life of the NRF project.
- Strategic habitat creation to enhance green networks
- Sustainable management of grazing pressure to enable landscape scale natural regeneration
- Dune management to enhance resilience to climate change impacts or enhance biodiversity, e.g. through grazing or trampling control or removal of invasive species
- Infrastructure that helps to support longer-term restoration efforts for Priority Marine Features.
- Changes to existing practices/approaches that help realise the benefits of and make a positive contribution towards the conservation objectives for Marine Protected Areas.
If you have any queries on the fund, please email [email protected] in the first instance, thank you.