Land managers: relevant policy
A range of Scottish and European policy and legislation that refers to habitat networks may be relevant to land managers.
Articles 3 and 10 of the Habitats Directive call on Member States to improve the ‘ecological coherence’ of Special Areas of Conservation (Natura 2000 sites). This will involve actions within a site and often around its designated area to ensure favourable conditions for species and habitats in the long term.
Article 10 mentions some specific special features that may contribute to ecological coherence: “Such features are those which, by virtue of their linear and continuous structure or their function as stepping stones are essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species.”
From an ecological point of view, meeting Article 10 isn’t limited to focusing on these specific features. You should consider any features that may improve ecological coherence.
Member States should ensure that the “preservation, maintenance and re-establishment of biotopes and habitats shall include the following measures: ... (b) upkeep and management in accordance with the ecological needs of habitats inside and outside the protected zones”.
Scottish Rural Development Programme 2014–2020
Some of the regional priorities listed in the SRDP Agri-Environment Climate Scheme refer specifically to habitat networks.
Nature Conservation Act
This is relevant to you if a public body owns or manages the land you work on.
Among other things, the 2004 strategy aims to achieve by 2030 a landscape where “Organisms can move, feed, reproduce and disperse effectively, and are better able to adapt to changing circumstances of land use and climate change.”
Scottish Planning Policy
The Scottish Planning Policy (2014) states that the planning system should “seek benefits for biodiversity from new development where possible, including the restoration of degraded habitats and the avoidance of further fragmentation or isolation of habitats”.
And in relation to woodland specifically: “If a development would result in the severing or impairment of connectivity between important woodland habitats, workable mitigation measures should be identified and implemented, preferably linked to a wider green network”.
For those in the Central Belt, Scotland’s Third National Planning Framework includes the Central Scotland Green Network as one of the 14 national developments seen as vital to Scotland’s long-term development.
The Framework states “This densely-populated area is rich in cultural, industrial and natural assets. However, in some places past land use has left a legacy of disused land, poor quality greenspace and fragmented habitats. Here, a step change in environmental quality is required to address disadvantage and attract investment, whilst sustaining and enhancing biodiversity, landscape quality and wider ecosystems.”
On a wider scale, the Framework notes: “Scotland’s 2020 Challenge for Biodiversity aims to develop a national ecological network over time, and there is an opportunity to link this with green networks in and around our towns and cities. Benefits will be achieved by taking a long-term, strategic approach to environmental management and enhancement.”
Scottish Forestry Strategy
Outcome 3 of The Scottish Forestry Strategy (2006) states that one aim is to “promote a landscape-scale approach to habitat networks” to help protect and enhance biodiversity.
This national strategy is the starting point for regional forestry strategies and their associated implementation plans. These are highlighted within the Rural Priorities system as one of the landscape priorities which the SRDP aims to deliver (priority 14 in most regions).
SRDP also contains a range of forestry options, which are related to habitat networks.