Discovery workshop - Nature Networks (Aug 22)

The Discovery Workshop, held in August, continued to explore and define the challenges we wish for 30x30 and Nature Networks to address playing an important role in the co-design process. This event brought together 120 people, from 92 organisations and groups, who were split into 13 different workshop groups. The aim of the workshop was to ensure that the frameworks address the correct challenges and issues facing those delivering on the ground. By the end of the workshop, the co-creators had identified the themes that will form the backbone of the framework and implementation plans. 

As part of the wider Discovery Workshop, we held seven Nature Network workshops, with an average of 10 co-creators in each, resulting in over 380 challenges identified. These span from issues of data and monitoring, complex policy landscape, communication and partnership working, and finance and resources and the sectors knowledge and skills. 

There were discussions regarding the complexity of working at different scales, both geographically over different land types and owners, and at different time scales ensuring there is longevity of nature networks. There were also expressions of concern regarding a need for behaviour change and the way different people, sectors and levels of leadership view nature and our relationship to it, with this impact governance, policy and resourcing. 

In the second half of the workshop the co-creators started to define down what the Nature Network framework needed to address, grouping their challenges into themes, finding linkages and similarities across issues. Each of the workshops formed their own themes, and developed a ‘common vision’ which brought together what they’d discussed into a positive forward look at what Nature Networks could look like. The themes and challenges from each of the workshop groups have been amalgamated and aligned, and will be taken forward in the next set of workshops. 

Below you will find the summaries from each of the seven workshops. If you weren’t able to attend the workshop but, upon reading, would like to input any additional points, please use this form. We will look to integrate any addition discussion and feedback into the workshops going forward. 

Details of the next set of workshops can be found here.

Contact mailbox:

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    Nature Networks - workshop 6

    Facilitators: Tina Martin and Alan Cameron
    Number of co-designers: 9

    High level summary

    Participants brought considerable experience of different approaches to local nature networks from a number of local authorities, bringing additional experience of facilitating and contributing to local projects and campaigns, with one participant representing wider countryside and rural land management.  We identified the following themes as discussed below:

    • Land value and land use
    • Sustainable Financing
    • Skills/capacity gaps
    • Engagement
    • Communication and Governance
    • Impact Assessment
    • Data

    Land value and land use

    Land uses directed at delivering environmental and social priorities can result in tensions with other land use such as for food production, housing and infrastructure.  This is exacerbated by uncertainties over valuing biodiversity and carbon markets and also by preferences of individual land owners and managers.  Local designations can play a role in preventing new developments from breaking up existing nature networks.  There is often a role for comprehensive land use plans and strategies.

    Sustainable Financing

    Funding is more readily available for short-term planning and initial delivery but is generally not available for ongoing management.  Funds made available by the statutory agencies often impose impossible timetables that do not take recipients nor nature into account.

    Skills/capacity gaps

    Nature networks require skills, expertise, understanding and leadership – all of which are lacking amongst stakeholders, including land managers, regulators, developers, planners etc

    Engagement

    Historical conflicts and tensions, an overly-complex landscape of competing objectives, a lack of political will, and silo-working by public bodies can all mitigate against effective engagement by stakeholders.

    Communication and Governance

    The plethora of competing and conflicting policies, strategies and outcomes (for example on spatial planning) can lead to duplication and confusion.

    Impact Assessment

    The biological and social impacts from nature networks require long-term thinking and assessment, which are often not supported with sufficient resources.

    Data

    We don’t always have the evidence, but it is important not to allow data insufficiency to prevent action.  The key is to share data and use data by using recognised GIS platforms and by ensuring that all data are ‘fit for function’.

    Common vision

    Inclusive collaboration and co-production involving all stakeholders to resolve conflicts over different land uses and to contribute to underpinning legislation and regulation that address shared strategic outcomes at landscape-scale and help to resolve confusion and duplication of effort possibly through coherent logic modelling applied to strategies and spatial planning. Ensure data are shared and of quality to provide evidence base. Make better use of existing funding and opportunities to access innovative sustainable financing mechanisms.

    Details

    Below are the themes and challenges with highest votes first.

    Land value and land use

    • Conflicting land use, development, e.g. commercial use, forestry, energy such as windfarms etc.
      • Regular disturbance e.g. fire, strimming, cutting, people
      • Lack of understanding of the importance of space for biodiversity
      • Finance
      • Expectations of what it should look like
      • Confidence in progressive management options
    • Understanding which habitat should go where. We have national tree planting strategy but no national grassland strategy, despite the latter potentially providing more for biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
    • Resolving the tension between economic, environmental and social priorities where we increase land under conservation
    • Differing priorities for land owners/managers
    • In cities the amount of new development is breaking up networks and lower designation Local Nature Conservation Sites (LNCS) become more important
    • Development needs coming into conflict with nature protection e.g. infrastructure, food production
    • Deciding what the land should be used for. What are the priorities and how do we manage issues such as pests and diseases (e.g. ash die back)
    • Different landowners, some may be in favour of improving land for nature networks and some may not be interested

    Sustainable Financing

    • Funding which supports survey of land to understand the habitat and its condition
    • Funding is way too short term and even the statutory agencies don't seem to take into account how the seasons/time of year affect project delivery e.g. Funding release in November to be spent by March!!
    • Funding available for planning and delivery but not for stewardship
    • Funding for new projects is very short term.

    Skills/ capacity gaps

    • Ensuring advice is available to balance economic with biodiversity requirements (e.g. farmers producing efficiently but also with care for the environment - appropriate skill sets of advisers
    • Lack of capacity to lead / poor leadership
    • The understanding of what a nature network - lots of different interpretation
    • Ineffective biodiversity net gain type projects which do not restore nature lost from development
    • Understand the outcomes that you want for Nature networks use a tool like.
    • Lack of expertise within local authorities.to deliver for nature

    Engagement

    • Encourage land manager led landscape-scale conservation, bottom-up
    • How do we incentivise or encourage land managers to place areas into conservation
    • General political buy in for nature in the same way there is an understanding and political support for climate crisis
    • Silo working - so delivering on paths separate from flood alleviations separate from recreational spaces etc
    • Historical conflicts/ tensions locally
    • Busy context i.e. lots of frameworks, legislation, targets etc - harder for people to engage and not feel overwhelmed

    Communication and Governance

    • Key statutory documents lead to confusion and duplication of effort - Nobody is doing any logic mapping on any of this and real risk that actions fall into gaps
      • Local Development Plan
      • Open Space Strategy
      • Forest and Woodland strategy
      • Local Biodiversity Action Plan
      • Climate Plan
      • Climate adaption plan
      • Local Place Plans
      • Management plans
      • Corporate plans
      • Councils’ plans
    • Links to and understanding of outcomes for social cohesion, Health& Wellbeing, Economic, Environment and biodiversity all at the same time and how they link together
    • Strategies to link up across LA boundaries

    Impact Assessment

    • Long term stewardship and community resilience and ability to be resilient not taken account of in funding streams and grant awards or council budgets.
    • More biological background data often required but monitoring and survey work is often not included in funding. More site management plans are needed to have a proper plan in place for future work
    • Monitoring and evaluation processes to support future projects. Accessible data storage.

    Data

    • Recognise that we don't always have evidence, or only partial evidence for conservation actions. We may therefore need to manage adaptively as we learn more
    • All data should be collected geographically using GIS - This can capture lived experience, videos, talking heads, photos etc. Stop just counting stuff we need ‘fit for functionality’ data so for trees for instance we not only need to know: Quantity, type, location but also size, age, life space, carbon captured, canopy cover, disease prevalence, growth rate and height. Type of growing conditions.
    • What can co-locate with trees?
    • Show all of this on dashboards and overlay with other data.  See this dashboard for illustration.
    • Can we make use of mobile app technology to record real-time data on conservation status

     

    Nature Networks - workshop 7

    Facilitators: Zeshan Akhter and Brodie Thomas
    Number of Co-creators: 8                                                   

    High level summary

    Summary of six key themes:

    • Resourcing
    • Policy coherence
    • Infrastructure
    • Data
    • Education
    • Culture/behaviour change

    The group felt that resources were the most significant barrier. Participants stressed that they are aware that resources are often quoted as being the problem almost as default but it really is the case in this instance. However, a number of participants stressed that without the correct policy context, and knowledge, even money can’t solve this problem. Some people commented that there has never been a stronger policy context but we now need the resources and knowledge to deliver the policies in a practical way. “It’s how the policies are applied that proves their worth.”

    Due to the prevalence of resourcing within discussion, it is often linked to other themes. The development of skills and knowledge amongst different sectors was highlighted as an issue due to the lack of staff resources. The group agreed that biodiversity data is not adequate, with a lack of data for certain habitats and species. There were also concerns over the future of data recording via biological record centers and how data is disseminated.

    The group identified areas where intransigent (uncompromising) behavior would be common and believed this would also be a large hurdle. “Biodiversity is still often referred to as a 'soft' subject, which is optional or not 'real-world' enough to stand on a par with subjects like the economy, housing, defence etc. This image and understanding needs to change quickly.”

    Common vision

    With limited time to work up one vision we instead have presented three visions as suggested by co-creators on the day.

    “A resilient environment that would support biodiversity, us and future generations.”

    Builds on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: “By 2030, we will have restored 30% of Scotland's land and regenerated biodiversity across our land, freshwater and seas through individuals and partnership working. Our natural environment of plants, animals will be richly diverse, thriving, resilient and adapting to climate change. Everyone will understand the benefits from and importance of biodiversity and will play their part in looking after our native plants and animals in Scotland for future generations."

    “Connectivity is a key theme for me: connecting habitats, connecting people with nature.”

     

    Details

    Further details on the challenges bought forward, under the broader themes they were grouped into, are given below.

    Resourcing (8 Challenges)

    • I realise it seems very obvious to say we don't have enough money or people but frankly we're facing a massive crisis and we can't tackle it without many more people and money.
    • The ambition is to be applauded however the reality is there aren't currently anywhere enough staff or resources to realise that ambition.  There's a real difficulty in filling what posts are available, short-term contracts and low wage scales being factors.  Also, some habitats are better funded than others e.g. lots for peat and trees, not much for grassland and wetland.
    • Funding will obviously be a major challenge. Nature Networks will clearly bring ecosystem service benefits but we're still struggling to identify who is willing to pay for these. Payment for carbon sequestration is advanced but for other ecosystem services it's hard to find who is willing to pay.
    • An increased lead-in period for funding which needs to be spent within one financial year would be helpful to ensure that seasonal work can be undertaken without wasted seasons. Nature Restoration Fund is very welcome but often not easy to apply, project plan and implement within the time-frame. Also rules out important work which require more than 1 year of implementation and monitoring.
    • Until now, biodiversity improvements associated with development were often considered to be more of a luxury than a necessity outwith designated areas/habitats.
    • Similarly urban interventions are likely to be more expensive given the challenges of creating green infrastructure in an urban context.
    • Hard to provide quantitative benefits to private investors. Carbon does not always beget biodiversity.
    • Ensure that we are funding/carrying out community regeneration alongside ecological restoration. The long-term efficacy if restoration activities hinge on communities, building capacity and initiating legacy projects.

    Policy Coherence (14 challenges)

    • Who's responsible for developing networks? Local authorities? Regional plans? Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies?
    • Local Nature Conservation Sites’ importance varies based on very little or no information e.g. Not all sites have an information profile- circles in fields are difficult to protect!
    • Networks should maybe be incorporated into Local Development Plans to gain traction. This could take years.
    • Expectation in National Planning Framework for local authorities to identify and protect nature networks but next to no guidance on how to do that or tools on which to assess whether development is positive or negative for biodiversity.
    • How do we define 'conserve' in context of 30x30 especially as environment is changing.  Also how do we define a 'network'.  I think there is a working definition somewhere...?
    • Connectivity within larger landscapes can be limited to tree planting, other wildlife avenues/corridors are important to achieve habitat mosaics e.g You can't see the view for the trees!
    • Recommended standardised methodologies for 'heat mapping'/'opportunity mapping' for optimising use of resources for increasing habitat connectivity for different species groups e.g. pollinators B-Line
    • With biodiversity net gain yet to be mandated in Scotland, ensuring that progress made on site-based enhancements are not un-done when unprotected areas are re-prioritised for development.
    • Ensure that we are funding/carrying out community regeneration alongside ecological restoration. The long-term efficacy of restoration activities hinges on communities, building capacity and initiating legacy projects.
    • I don’t think there's never been a stronger policy landscape and although it isn’t perfect, I don’t think this is up there with the big barriers to delivery
    • Again, from a planning policy perspective - ensuring that there is a consistent implementation of policies to ensure that networks are retained and improved. Enforcement of conditions on planning applications may not be undertaken fully due to current lack of staff resources etc.
    • Connectivity, changes in land management and use, old allocations in development opportunity areas which do not reflect current thinking.
    • Policy coherence/compatibility: we've come across cases (Leith in Edinburgh) where green infrastructure interventions (as part of active travel measures) have had to be reversed as they were not appropriate to conservation (built heritage) areas.
    • Invasive Non-Native Species. in danger of over-running and compromising our biodiversity e.g., funding and reduced grazing regimes

     Infrastructure (2 challenges)

    • Renewable energy: hydro-schemes, type and size.re. Scale: new access to hill areas and associated infrastructure can break up wildlife corridors and interfere in the natural hydrology e,g  peatlands and associated water courses.
    • Man-made barriers - roads, hard infrastructure.

    Data and mapping (10 challenges)

    • Lack of a national habitat map at the right classification level to map and design networks, identify suitable restoration areas to maximise network connectivity etc.
    • Poor data on some habitat types on which to form decisions e.g. grassland
    • Heavy focus on vertebrate and lack of attention to invertebrate in conservation programmes  (including pollinators).
    • The uncertain future of biological records centres (pending a Scottish Government response on the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum Review recommendations) is hindering the level of data required by planning departments and developers. Transparency of ecological survey data collected on behalf of developers would add greatly to the coverage and detail of up-to-date biodiversity data across Scotland.
    • Lack of evidence on multi-species assemblage responses to structural connectivity within the landscape e.g. there is still a lack of consensus on what functional connectivity means for mobile species (e.g. birds or pollinators)
    • Climate change makes it hard to predict future environmental conditions in protected areas.
    • Enhancing a network for some habitats species is often at the expense of others.
    • Different definitions of connectivity and lack of empirical data on how well different species can move between habitat patches
    • Lack of reliable biodiversity data, including studies on beta- and gamma diversity
    • Lack of a national habitat map at the right classification level to map and design networks, identify suitable restoration areas to maximise network connectivity etc.

    Education, skills and knowledge (6 challenges)

    • In many local authorities there is a lack of experience and knowledge about biodiversity, ecology etc. This can be due to lack of investment and resourcing recently in these areas. Hopefully the recent Scottish Government support of the climate and ecological crises will see this policy area being better supported. 
    • Biological Records Centres are key to nurturing and training the current and future generations of biological recorders.
    • Misunderstanding of the concept of re-wilding. The message needs to be clear in terms of aims and objectives, after all it is a management decision and not a catch it all for doing nothing e.g., Over- run with briars allowing for very little movement of species and people.
    • Skills to introduce Green Infrastructure into hard landscapes. Street trees for example. This is a growing sector with improving technologies, however many areas don't have the resources or skills to get this right - to provide well established and long-lasting green features in hard landscapes which last until maturity
    • Especially in the context of urban connectivity, community engagement will be a vital aspect. Interventions need to be acceptable. This will require staff resources and expertise in this field.
    • Ensure that we are funding/carrying out community regeneration alongside ecological restoration. The long-term efficacy of restoration activities hinges on communities, building capacity and initiating legacy projects.

    Culture and behaviour change (6 challenges)

    • Ensuring that there is corporate support and understanding of the ambition to achieve 30 by 30 and Nature Networks.
    • Biodiversity is still often referred to as a 'soft' subject, which is optional or not 'real-world' enough to stand on a par with subjects like the economy, housing, defence etc. This image and understanding needs to change quickly. Biodiversity as a science-based field which affects everyone very directly through eco-system services must be communicated. Public opinions as to whether or not biodiversity work should be carried out should be balanced against the society-wide benefits of biodiversity gain.
    • Lines on maps can be contentious and may not go down well with landowners.
    • Intransigence of individual landowners to change. Partly lack of incentivization, partly cultural change e.g. grouse moors, sheep farmers. This also extends to public sector, e.g. the way local authorities manage parks or road verges. And to individual households. We lose a lot of greenspaces through "urban creep" - house extensions, front gardens being paved over, home offices in back gardens, the dreaded plastic grass! All reducing valuable habitat and flood mitigation.
    • Multi-stakeholder management might be problematic and not sustainable in the long term.
    • Urban to rural connectivity: the role of per-urban areas can be underestimated in introducing people to the wider countryside and could compromise the movement of species by limited connectivity.

    Nature Networks - workshop 8

    Facilitators: Dougie Pollok and Penny Martin
    Number of Co-Creators: 8                                                  

    High level summary

    This workshop identified the key issues for establishing Nature Networks revolve around financing and governance of the networks; how to work and design at differing network scales; collect, use and share data, establish policy guidance, reconcile competing land uses and agree land management in urban and rural areas. The capacity of organisations to deliver, engage people, enable access and monitor impacts were also identified as challenges.

    Common vision

    Nature Networks should link landscapes and communities, nature and people to create resilient ecosystems that support biodiversity and livelihoods.

    Details

    How the workshop went

    Eight co-creators participated in this workshop, supported by two NatureScot facilitators. Two of the co-creators were based in England, the rest were in Scotland. Sectors and interests represented ranged from environmental management, research, place making and deer management. 

    Technical problems were experienced by a couple of participants. In particular one person was unable to contribute at all via the Conceptboard or the chat; however they were still able to contribute via a facilitator transcribing verbal comments to sticky notes. The remaining participants appeared happy with the technology and were active contributors requiring little support.  Technological issues therefore meant there was slightly less time available for wider discussion or exploration of issues and themes as a group.  

    Because of time constraints, the voting on the last few themes was rushed.

    Themes identified with priority issues

    During the brain dump session, the following nine themes were identified within the mix of issues. These themes are ordered in priority below according to the number of notes linked to them. The issues (paraphrased below) which received a ‘3’ score, are described under each theme below, plus any other issues which received 1 or 2 votes.

    In addition to the 9 themes below there was a 10th that we didn’t have room to fit into the voting. This additional theme covered how a Nature Network is defined and what the components of a Nature Network are. Which habitats and species are we trying to connect, how do we define priorities at a local, regional and national scale, and what counts as an ‘other effective area based conservation measure’ (OECM)?

    Finance/ Governance (13 notes)

    The key issue identified lack of sufficient funding for delivery of nature networks (urban and rural) and for management to ensure the sites/network remain in good condition.

    Other issues include too-short funding agendas unable to support meaningful delivery, lack of legal protection for the whole network not just protected areas, lack of clarity over securing long term management of the nature network and who is responsible. Will there be statutory protection of nature networks?

    Network scale & design (8 notes)

    There was no outright top voted issue here, but higher priority issues included the need to recognise that nature networks need to operate at different scales to support different species needs. Also, how can we link up local authority networks to work at regional level? Timescale was noted as another issue – how do we maintain and protect our nature network over the longer term? How do we ensure that Nature Networks are functionally connected?

    Data (8 notes)

    Quality and accessibility of current data to inform the Nature Network is a key issue. How do we use the existing data and ecological networks, integrated habitat networks etc. to design nature networks?

    Other issues touched on include the lack of available data sets, knowledge and baselines. What are the measures for success, for people and nature?

    Policy (7 notes)

    The availability of national guidance for local authorities and local communities was the key issue here.

    Other issues include planning and land-use, where local and national strategies are not joined up, plus lack of consensus on delivery and scale.

    Competing land-use (7 notes)

    The main challenge agreed here was how we manage multiple and competing demands on land e.g. for carbon sequestration, recreation, development, nature etc. Land use demands vary between rural and local (urban) areas.

    The challenge will be reconciling these economic, social and environmental aspects of land management.

    Other issues under this theme include the tension between planting versus natural regeneration approaches. Funding and immediate impact is often the reason for the former but there may be better biodiversity benefits with the latter. Another challenge is the availability of suitable plants, tree stock and native seed.  

    One concern was the potential for overemphasis/prioritisation of one habitat or species to the detriment of others.

    Land management (6 notes)

    Linking in with the monitoring theme (above), the top priority issue here was the challenge to make sure that all elements of a nature network remain in good condition. Who monitors this? 

    Other issues include differing attitudes to changes in land management, coordinating land management strategies across different land owners, and identifying timescales for delivery and maintenance.

    Capacity of organisations (6 notes)

    Key issues identified here are the limited capacity of delivery organisations (e.g. local authorities) to deliver nature networks – particularly with a limited staff resource at present. Also there is a lack of resources within local authorities to deliver Nature networks effectively whilst the pressures on local authorities are increasing.

    Other issues touched on include expectations of local authorities, and lack of expertise/skills and resources, which may be patchy and inconsistent across local authorities

    People (4 notes)

    The top issue here is how we ensure nature networks are accessible to all communities, not just those with existing resources to create their own.

    Other issues include recreational pressures on biodiversity, when we need to promote access to nature particularly in peri-urban and rural settings.  Increased people pressure can be detrimental to biodiversity and movement of species. Another challenge is how we get potential delivery partners to get involved. What is the mechanism to ensure local authorities embrace the idea and help deliver nature networks?

    Monitoring (3 notes)

    Only three issues here meant all were marked as top priority. These issues focused on biodiversity monitoring to understand network impacts and conservation works. There is a need to separate the impacts of local, national of global drivers of change, so how local action versus network scale action is assessed is an issue. The challenge will be measuring connectivity in a meaningful way while taking into account the availability of data. Lack of long-term monitoring and reporting is another challenge.

    Nature Networks - workshop 9

    Facilitators: Susan Webster and Lisa Davidson
    Number of co-creators: 9                                                   

    High level summary

    These messages came across very strongly:

    • Complexity of land ownership at all levels and the ability to work across these (land use conflicts with habitat protection).
    • A key plea was for consistency of understanding and action across Local Authorities.
    • Development and NPF4 has a mindset of ‘development first’ and building around priority habitats rather than developing a skeleton network first.
    • Enabling understanding of the wider benefits of Nature Networks to all from communities, contractors, Local Authorities and developers.
    • Greater clarity and availability of funding now and for the future management and protection of Nature Networks.
    • Visible and active support at a national level (data, land ownership, funding, education, skills)

    Common vision

    The value of nature to be put at the heart of the decision-making process. Nature Networks to be developed with communities for thriving biodiversity and health and wellbeing, including climate change. Nature Networks needs to create a healthy functioning natural environment.

    Details

    This discussion was formed by 9 co-creators, from a wide range of backgrounds and two NatureScot facilitators. Three people dropped out the meeting on occasion due to internet/tech issues (two of which left permanently early on), and a handful of participants experienced some tech issues with ConceptBoard. Despite that, we had good discussion around the issues and challenges of developing Nature Networks.

    ConceptBoard analysis:

    We had a lot of good engagement from the participants on the Conceptboard. Following discussions, we divided the sticky notes into 8 themes;

    • Funding
    • Policy
    • Governance
    • Education & skills
    • Community engagement & communication
    • Data
    • Land use & Land ownership
    • Just transition.

    We found that, by looking at the number of sticky notes, the following themes had the most engagement – Community engagement & communication (13 notes), Governance (11 notes) and Land use/ Land ownership (10 notes). While the Just Transition theme only contained two sticky notes, it contained the top two upvoted sticky notes – looking at social justice considerations when creating the network, and the high level of development pressures on spaces for nature.

    During the voting, we experienced a slight issue some with one or two of the comments within the voting widget themes did not have voting activated for it. In response we attempted to trouble shoot it by creating an individual voting widget for the comment and had the participants comment in the chat if that is a comment they would like to vote for if that remedy did not work. These have been taken into consideration when writing the ConceptBoard analysis and discussion below.

    Themes, highlighting key points in each (in order of priority based on comments within themes):

    Funding

    • Accessibility (too complex for land owners/managers)
      • Differing timescales
      • Changing priorities
      • New areas created at the expense of previous ones (ref Edinburgh Living Landscapes)
    • Cost of maintenance and monitoring of NN sites – long term funding and resources e.g when developers pass this on to public ownership
    • Amount of funding available – reduced by EU Exit( ie European funding has gone, not yet replaced)
    • EU Exit has also obstructed the development of wider international networks

    Policy

    • National Planning Framework 4 and development in general has a ‘development first’ mindset, trying to build around important habitats. Planning needs to have skeleton network/corridors first.
      • Debates about how to allow for community choice, and benefits connectivity. E.g.  communities not wanting long grass in the development of wildflower meadows & pollinator corridors
      • Future proofing the nature network with climate change in mind and predicting how people will use it in the future
    • Nature recovery & action for climate change is seen as separate which they are not and must work together. E.g., not just tree planting, but the right tree in the right area.
    • Biodiversity Net Gain driving certain behaviours in England and how starting to be considered by developers in Scotland

    Governance

    • Competing priorities & lack of coherence
      • Carbon sequestration schemes & biodiversity. E.g., tree planting is not always appropriate but is often heralded and seen as a win-win by decision makers.
      • Need coherence in approach across and within departments.
      • Lack of coherence from planning to agri-environmental schemes (from NI perspective)
      • Lack of forum for agree local priorities
    • No checks or governance after licenses/consents are issued - I.e. felling licenses, abstraction licenses etc.
    • Lack of or ineffective protected for natural spaces and the protected area network is not comprehensive.
      • How would the Nature Network be protected?
    • Inconsistencies between planning conditions across local authorities which developers can exploit. It is difficult to create a network that will work at a regional & national scale when local authorities vary so much in terms of resources/pressures

    Education and Skills

    • Lack of skills in contractors, community groups and land management operatives on landscape for nature networks and habitats
    • Lack of understanding about NN’s and consistency of approach in LA Planning departments combined with a lack of resource and understanding of what may be required leading to lack of protection/restoration/creation
    • A need to understand that success, related to the tourism sector for example, is measured by more than just the ‘tourist dollar’
    • A need to understand invasive species and deer management as part of NN management

    Community Engagement/ Communication

    • Helping people ( eg local community) understand, value and engage with Nature Networks
      • Communicate in an easily understood way
      • Encourage dialogue ‘between viewpoints’
      • Encourage participation
    • Demands on available land in Urban areas and local community priorities may lead to a focus on green space for recreation rather than nature
    • Needs to be a focus on better understanding of the benefits of nature for e.g health and wellbeing and downstream impacts (peatland rewetting reducing flooding for example, stop using fake grass and paving gardens)
    • Use of language may create issues e.g ‘rewilding’
    • Use trusted intermediaries to help positive engagement e.g Tweed Forum example
    • Lack of a forum for agreeing local priorities
    • There is a disconnect between academia and public sector/industry

    Data

    • Lack of a central collection of data on areas of habitat on area of specific habitats lost and gained (through development incl compensatory restoration & biodiversity net gain) on an annual basis
    • Lack of consistency across and within Local Authorities, needs co-ordination between departments – No real urgency for this to be addressed due to a lack of funding and or knowledge of the potential benefits
    • Need for better data sharing and a resource allocated for doing this

    Land use

    • The challenge of delivery with complex partnerships that are required for landscape scale activity - multiple local authorities, landowners, community orgs and national bodies.
    • Issue when land use conflicts with habitat protection and connectivity to nature network
    • Establishing ownership of land – number of absent landowners
    • Lack of co-ordination mechanism between adjacent landowners
    • Scaling up activity – e.g small urban nature rich sites and nature reserves, connecting can be challenging (see first point above)
    • Need incentives for landowners - initial capital costs and maintenance -that are simple to obtain
    • The issues related to 'over-tourism', or tourism (and recreation) pressures, and the tensions that this creates with local communities and the associated environmental issues

    Just Transition

    • Social justice considerations when creating the network such as equality, access, social deprivation.
    • Ensuring that multifunctional green spaces are good for biodiversity, not just people, particularly within the frame of development pressure & community buy-in.
      • Making sure that nature-based solutions are biodiversity-rich and support species that don’t necessarily support climate adaptation

    Nature Networks - workshop 10

    Facilitators: Barry Dunne and Viv Gray
    Number of co-creators: 8

    High level summary

    This workshop generated 43 issues/challenges the group felt we will face when trying to create Nature Networks that connect areas of land and freshwater important for nature. The group did well remaining focused on the challenges and didn’t veer off to consider solutions.

    Six themes emerged on the concept board from this discussion. Certain themes generated more comments than others. They are listed below in order of those which generated the most comments at the top working down to the one which generated the least amount of comments at the bottom:

    • Funding (12 comments)
    • Relationship building (10 comments)
    • Policy/plan alignment (9 comments)
    • Statutory protection (5 comments)
    • Working at scale (4 comments)
    • Data (3 comments)

    The number of comments against each theme did, generally speaking, reflect how the group ranked each of these themes in terms of priority.

    Common vision

    Scotland has a long term, landscape scale, ecological restoration approach to establishing nature networks which deliver benefits to society as well as to nature. It should be something that the people of Scotland are proud of, establishing long term public support for the network. Nature networks need to be relevant to people, deliver jobs and have the public’s active involvement in their creation and management.

    Details  

    There was an interesting side conversation at one point relating to comments posted on use of innovative solutions such as green bridges. This led to some conversation between the contributor and a group member who has experience of delivery. The takeaway, transferable observation from this discussion was that we need to be mindful of effectiveness of spend when considering innovative solutions – for example, green bridges may be an innovative solution in Scotland but they are not necessarily the most effective way to spend money on nature networks.

    Workshop - Activity 2

    The group reviewed suggested grouping of comments and agreed the six the themes. Some merging/deleting of overlapping comments was agreed.

    Workshop - Activity 3

    The group discussed each theme and the issues highlighted. Further merging/deleting of comments was undertaken before a final agreed set of comments was put to the vote. All but one (due to a technical issue to do with the stakeholders email not being accepted) of the stakeholders was able to vote. This person submitted their votes by email to Barry Dunne.

    Themes (There was a maximum of 24 votes available under each theme)

    Funding (19 votes cast) - Key issues identified based on voting

    1. Short term (max 3 years) funding approach that we work to (e.g. NS grants) but proper restoration can take decades (5 votes).
    2. We need to be wise about private finance to ensure projects are not used as greenwashing. (4 votes).
    3. Three issues related to applying for funding each with 2 votes each:
      1. Too much process based thinking around funding rather than outcome based. Land managers seen not as "trusted operators" working in partnership but more as adversaries.
      2. Funding often is focused on capital spending, not allowing funding for staff to manage the project - stretches resources and can threaten the success of the project.
      3. Counter to point a. above - Requirement for a rigid set of outcomes in funding applications - there needs to be room for flexibility so you can evolve as you learn or as circumstances change during a project lifetime.

    (Other votes can be seen in Annex 1)

    Relationship building (20 votes cast) - Key issues identified based on voting.

    1. Building trust across sectors to ensure that different types of land users/owners/managers can see the opportunity from their engagement with the process. (7 votes).
    2. Public support for a significant change to our landscapes need to be achieved (5 votes)
    3. Deer management will be a key issue. Need to ensure supply chain and routes to market for venison are considered. (2 votes).
    4. How do we prevent these nature networks being top-down? How can organisations/community groups on the ground be enabled to get the work done, rather than be directed to do it? (2 votes).
    5. We need to be bold and manage resistance to innovative ideas for connectivity even in highly sensitive areas (2 votes).

    (Other votes can be seen in Annex 1)

    Policy/plan alignment (18 votes cast) - Key issues identified based on voting

    1. We need to align local priorities and regional/national priorities and consider if these are attractive to funding (5 votes)
    2. We need better working across different systems e.g. planning, agriculture, forestry  etc. (4 votes)
    3. Gaps and challenges to integrated land use decision-making. There is a need to join up the layers of mapping and decision-making that happen at all levels in a given area. The current pilot of Regional Land Use Partnerships could create some opportunities to bridge some of these gaps and better integrate this thinking.  For example how can the gathering of local priorities for nature be shared with public and private bodies involved in land use decision-making. There is also scope for existing tools for layering these processes to be extended to link pools of information. (3 votes) (This issue could fall under the Data theme too.
    4. We need a long term strategy to tackle the long term issues (3 votes).

    Statutory protection (19 votes cast) - Key issues identified based on voting

    1. Catchment wide approach required with a tighter grip on pollutants e,g. pesticide and fertiliser on farm land or else the good work done in one place is undermined by bad practice elsewhere. This is a combination of two similar issue which combined generated 8 votes). The contributor also felt that there is a risk we focus on landscape scale solutions without adequately incorporating the water environment.
    2. Need for regulation to deliver nature networks? Might future -agri support help with this (6 votes).
    3. Habitats that do not have statutory protection are more at risk of loss thus resulting in fragmentation of the network (4 votes)
    4. Statutory protection for ancient woodland would help (1 vote). The contributor of this challenge felt that while there is a robust policy approach it isn’t sufficient. Also relates to challenge 3 above.

    Working at scale (21 votes cast for, 1 against) - Key issues identified based on voting.

    1. We need to work at scale across multiple landownerships - who may not have common objectives (7 votes)
    2. Lack of Funding for landholdings to work together at scale so they are incentivised to find areas of agreement to collaborate to create connectivity between landholdings (6 votes).
    3. The temptation to go for the "low hanging fruit" - if we are to restore nature, we need to tackle some of the more challenging areas (5 votes). This also relates to scale as the group agreed that “low hanging fruit” are more likely to be small scale and less likely to address challenges 1 and 4.
    4. Working on a big enough scale to have a real impact - across defined geographical areas e.g. catchments - can be complex and take time (1 vote) (2 votes for, 1 vote against)

    Data (19 votes cast) - Key issues identified based on voting

    1. Expect that recording of the network is a challenge, requiring an integrated database, administration and monitoring - long term. (8 votes).
    2. Are we clear on what success looks like for Nature Networks? How many? What size? Where? Which habitats? (8 votes).
    3. A balance between the information and data needed and the urgency to take action. How can get the info required but act with urgency? (3 votes).

     

     

    Annex 1 – Breakdown of voting under each theme

    Funding (19 votes cast)

    • Short term (max 3 years) funding approach that we work to (e.g. NS grants) but proper restoration can take decades (5 votes).
    • We need to be wise about private finance to ensure projects are not used as greenwashing. (4 votes).
    • Three issues related to applying for funding each with 2 votes each:
      • Too much process based thinking around funding rather than outcome based. Land managers seen not as "trusted operators" working in partnership but more as adversaries.
      • Funding often is focused on capital spending, not allowing funding for staff to manage the project - stretches resources and can threaten the success of the project.
      • Counter to point a. above - Requirement for a rigid set of outcomes in funding applications - there needs to be room for flexibility so you can evolve as you learn or as circumstances change during a project lifetime.
    • Subsidies focussed on farming rather than habitat restoration outcomes (1 vote).
    • Some of the existing funding available to private landowners is loaded with risks and responsibilities to the extent that it is often not taken up. (1 vote)
    • In relation to the above, what the nature networks will be intended to deliver - am guessing multi-benefits of ecosystem services, access to nature, home for biodiversity (1 vote).
    • Local Authority Funding - Re above note - See CIEEM survey work re the resourcing of Scottish LPAs for more information (1 vote).
    • Securing funding for facilitation and landowner engagement (0 votes)
    • Being able to resource nature restoration that requires significant investment - e.g. rhododendron removal (0 votes).
    • There are already projects out there that may count as nature networks that are struggling to get funding - how do we make the use of existing opportunities rather than re-invent wheels? (0 votes)

    Relationship building (20 votes cast)

    • Building trust across sectors to ensure that different types of land users/owners/managers can see the opportunity from their engagement with the process. (7 votes).
    • Public support for a significant change to our landscapes need to be achieved (5 votes)
    • Deer management will be a key issue. Need to ensure supply chain and routes to market for venison are considered. (2 votes).
    • How do we prevent these nature networks being top-down? How can organisations/community groups on the ground be enabled to get the work done, rather than be directed to do it? (2 votes).
    • We need to be bold and mange resistance to innovative ideas for connectivity even in highly sensitive areas (2 votes).
    • Offsetting - Land purchasing (1 vote)
    • Project development - cluttered space (1 vote)
    • Meaningful community/people engagement (0 votes)
    • Having a robust method to enable contribution/buy in/leadership from local communities - being clear what "local community" means (0 votes)
    • As a non-landowning organisation, landowner engagement adds a lengthy element of project delivery, and pre-app preparation  (0 votes)

    Policy/plan alignment (18 votes cast)

    • We need to align local priorities and regional/national priorities and consider if these are attractive to funding (5 votes)
    • We need better working across different systems e.g. planning, agriculture, forestry  etc. (4 votes)
    • Gaps and challenges to integrated land use decision-making. There is a need to join up the layers of mapping and decision-making that happen at all levels in a given area. The current pilot of Regional Land Use Partnerships could create some opportunities to bridge some of these gaps and better integrate this thinking.  For example how can the gathering of local priorities for nature be shared with public and private bodies involved in land use decision-making. There is also scope for existing tools for layering these processes to be extended to link pools of information. (3 votes) (This issue could fall under the Data theme too)
    • We need a long term strategy to tackle the long term issues (3 votes).
    • Aligning with other political agendas - changes in deer management policy, land reform, agric reform etc. How do we join up sensibly? (2 votes)
    • Important for subsidies to reflect and balance different land use priorities. Existing subsidies system for environment and climate change is quite unwieldy. Subsidies could be more accessible and balanced with sustainable food production. (1 vote)
    • Expect hydro schemes could affect connectivity of the freshwater environment/fish passage upstream (0 votes)
    • Integration with other plans and policies, e.g. what is likely to come out of COP15 and could affect the biodiversity strategy (0 votes)
    • Health and wellbeing, outdoor learning, skills and training - should be integrated into long term plans for nature and green spaces and not each element considered in isolation (0 votes).

    Statutory protection (19 votes cast)

    • Catchment wide approach required with a tighter grip on pollutants e,g. pesticide and fertiliser on farm land or else the good work done in one place is undermined by bad practice elsewhere. This sis a combination of two similar issue which combined generated 8 votes).
    • Need for regulation to deliver nature networks? Might future -agri support help with this (6 votes).
    • Habitats that do not have statutory protection are more at risk of loss thus resulting in fragmentation of the network (4 votes).
    • Statutory protection for ancient woodland would help (1 vote).

    Working at scale (21 votes cast including 1 minus)

    • We need to work at scale across multiple landownerships - who may not have common objectives (7 votes)
    • Lack of Funding for landholdings to work together at scale so they are incentivised to find areas of agreement to collaborate to create connectivity between landholdings (6 votes).
    • The temptation to go for the "low hanging fruit" - if we are to restore nature, we need to tackle some of the more challenging areas (5 votes).
    • Working on a big enough scale to have a real impact - across defined geographical areas e.g. catchments - can be complex and take time (1 vote) (2 votes for, 1 vote minus)

    Data (19 votes cast)

    • Expect that recording of the network is a challenge, requiring an integrated database, administration and monitoring - long term. (8 votes).
    • Are we clear on what success looks like for Nature Networks? How many? What size? Where? Which habitats? (8 votes).
    • A balance between the information and data needed and the urgency to take action. How can get the info required but act with urgency? (3 votes).

    Nature Networks - workshop 11

    Facilitators: Alison Shand and Mareike Moeller-Holtkamp
    Number of co-creators: 9

    High level summary

    The discussion threw up a wide variety of issues, from uncertainty around the definition of Nature Networks, their long-term management and lack of policy integration and leadership, to the challenge of achieving connectivity on privately owned land and funding of resources/expertise within Local Authorities.

    Given that the aspiration for Nature Networks, despite being on the political agenda in various guises over the years, has not been implemented, the group called for a paradigm shift in the focus of the priorities. Closely linked with this was the discussion about a lack of policy consistency and integration into existing systems, especially with the agricultural sector, and missing links and support of Nature Networks through planning and related mechanisms such as National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) and Positive Effects for Biodiversity/ Biodiversity Net Gain.

    Common vision

    Delivering measurable nature recovery through collaboration, innovation and integration of policies, which will be guided by strong leadership from the top, and expertise at all levels.

    Details

    Nine themes were identified from the brainstorming part of the workshop. These themes had areas of overlap; for example leadership and consistency. Under each theme below, issues are listed in order of priority/ranking according to participant votes).

    Leadership

    1. Disconnect between agricultural and fishing policy and Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS)
    2. Integration - how best to fit this approach into existing 'systems', e.g. Development Plans, Regional Land Use Partnerships Pilots, nature partnerships. Climate Change policy, etc...
    3. Needs to inform policies across the board (including e.g. agriculture, fisheries, forestry)
    4. No progress been made for years, need to up the urgency - not resourced properly. Paradigm shift needed. Programme for Government has ambitious targets, use it better
    5. Political buy in - how do we ensure that local Members are engaged and agreed to deliver on the agenda
    6. NPF4 failures in terms of this agenda, including lack of movement / clarity on Biodiversity Net Gain
    7. lack of national support and commitment

    Data and knowledge

    1. From an ecological perspective land that connects one habitat (e.g. woodland) may simultaneously disconnect another (e.g. species rich grassland). How do you prioritise which habitat?
    2. Does the Nature Network identify priorities for action?
    3. There is a lack of ecological knowledge and understanding within government at all levels. Knowing what habitats should be connected and how - and when connectivity might be problematic. Expertise and capacity are often lacking in organisations to understand what needs to happen where and how.
    4. At what scale to undertake the mapping?
    5. Habitat cannot always be created in the area which optimises connectivity. Barriers could be physical (e.g. you cannot create wetlands if underlying geology/hydrology is not there), social (e.g. land has a more viable priority), and/or legal (e.g. land ownership).
    6. Evidence base - what evidence do we need to define what outcomes are required and where. Data can be lacking / disparate and often complex / expensive to gather and spans long-timelines sometimes.
    7. Partnerships with universities / knowledge centres should be considered to provide local expertise in ecology and technological solutions for assessing biodiversity levels.
    8. Lack of understanding of habitat value by farmers (e.g. core native woodland)
    9. Difference in dispersal distances between species.
    10. Data availability.
    11. Consider negative impacts of connectivity in the context of disease spreading, particularly as climate change is allowing new species to move north.

    Communication and collaboration

    1. We need the right organisations involved who can lead/influence/implement as needed.  Planning is only one part of the jigsaw and has limitations in terms of nature because we deal with development/change
    2. Perceptions of land use / management - nature is often perceived as 'messy' and uncared for, rather than complex and interesting
    3. Partnership - work at this scale requires partnership. That requires engagement, time, knowledge, money, capacity. policy, etc
    4. Definitions - what exactly is a Nature Network? What counts as part of a Nature Network?
    5. How do Nature Networks fit with 30x30?
    6. Working across boundaries.

    Delivery on the ground/ land ownership

    1. Varying/conflicting interests - how do we marry landowner interests across land ownership, e.g. farm vs forest vs park vs solar farm.
    2. Scales - what scale to work at, community, city, region, etc...
    3. Designating Nature Networks and new protected areas is relatively simple on paper.  Making it meaningful and delivering change on the ground are a completely different and a much more complex challenge.
    4. Private land that breaks connectivity.
    5. Landowner engagement / desire in areas required for connections.
    6. Need to know who owns what and where.

    Funding and resourcing

    1. Funding - it costs money to define what needs to happen and then to do it. Where's this coming from?
    2. Lack of expertise at Local Authorities (see also ‘Data and knowledge’ point 3).
    3. NatureScot defunding nature partnerships is a critical failure in sustaining organisational capacity to address the challenges / opportunities.
    4. Lack of time to get this done.

    Long-term management and status

    1. What status will Nature networks have? How can we get consistency of delivery across Planning Authorities with very different conditions/resources/knowledge?
    2. How do we protect the sites and manage them, rather than just mark them on a map?
    3. Local Nature Conservation Sites (LNCS) should be getting more certainty and protection through Nature Networks and/or or 30x30.
    4. Offsetting - what role does this play in either opportunities or challenges to this agenda?

    Planning

    1. Definition of what a Nature Network is and its protection level given within the planning system.
    2. Role of the planning system – what can it contribute, beyond the red line of a development site.
    3. Partnerships with universities should be considered to provide local expertise in ecology and technological solutions for assessing biodiversity levels.

    Consistency and guidance

    1. Disconnect between policy areas e.g. planning, agri-environment, different local authorities. Nature doesn't perceive these policy boundaries.
    2. NatureScot needs to produce guidance - opportunity mapping, plus how to do it.
    3. Guidance on how to deliver Nature Networks.
    4. Coherent approach that delivers desired outcomes.
    5. Difficulty in collaboration with stakeholders across a region when these people have different priorities.

    Wider impacts

    1. With 80% of land farmed, how will 30% of land impact on food security? Care needs to be taken that we don't reduce production and risk increased offshoring. Importance of integration.
    2. Think about knock-on effects for ecosystems worldwide if agricultural land becomes less productive.

    Nature Networks - workshop 12

    Facilitators: Sam Black and Sarah McGrory
    Number of co-creators: 8

    High level summary

    Everyone in agreement that there is a space for nature everywhere in Scotland. Stakeholders were positive about the concept that benefits for nature could be delivered by connecting people and land use through network approach to management and planning. Establishing stakeholder trust and credibility in nature network governance through resilient framework cited as key for successful development and implementation.

    Common vision

    A nature network in which people are inspired and motivated to be a part of, where the process of engagement is as important as the end goal, within which space is made for nature into the future and incorporated into land use across Scotland.

    Details

    The group included six stakeholders, two further team members had dropped out. Much discussion held with all team members participating in discussion as well as good use of the concept board. Main discussion split by themes outlined on concept board as below. We did not manage to do voting on post-its although group members felt that it wasn’t a useful exercise as everyone brought their different experience to the meeting, of which all was equally valuable.

    Complexity of structural components of framework

    It was suggested that stakeholders are confused by the vast numbers of different designation types (Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUP), National Nature Reserves (NNRs), National Parks, etc.) with different underlying legislation and different management regimes. It was noted that management of the various types of protected areas is complex and not well understood by the wider community who find it confusing.

    It was observed that the current set-up of protected areas is not well aligned with creating connectivity (I.e., scaling up to have the desired positive effect for nature) between sites – drawing lines between sites doesn’t automatically result in a nature network. It was suggested that there is a mis-match between the current framework and the Nature Networks goal.

    The public do not generally understand the importance of biodiversity but this understanding is necessary to enable wider engagement and buy-in to the development management and cohesion of framework components within nature networks.

    Complexity of land ownership and management priorities

    There is a segmented debate on land use which tends to be for single use only and rarely is there overlap once a single purpose of that land is identified. For instance, land used for farming will not also realise the potential biodiversity benefits so they will be lost. This leads to increasing polarisation of land-use and a lack of appreciation of how different land use objectives can be integrated. Supporting habitat for biodiversity is being further squeezed.

    There was concern that the approach taken should not be to parcel bits of land for nature as we need to find ways of working together/ balancing for a shared gain. Clearly aims and goals will differ but the idea of a green-belt to prevent development completely was suggested to be a mis-step. It was suggested that hard lines on maps should be avoided as this can cause sensitivity among land managers but that ‘fuzzy’ lines would be preferable.

    It was recommended that there is a need to develop more cultural and practical ways of thinking – most stakeholders will have ‘baggage’ and this will provide challenges. It was suggested that there are more opportunities in the highlands to enable a balance of land management objectives than in the lowlands where management tends to be either for nature or not for nature. It was noted that it will be difficult to get suites of landowners across large landscapes to work together. It was also mentioned that there are significant differences between urban and rural priorities which means that flexibility of approach, including governance will be needed. The complexity of land ownership was also raised as an issue.

    While not discussed for long, possibility because it is such as well-established need, the importance of effective deer management to allow nature networks to re-form was noted.

    Sense of ownership/ stewardship of land.

    There is a sense amongst communities that many designations are forced upon them without consultation which contributes to a lack of sense of ownership / stewardship and understanding of the sites and what they are trying to achieve. Challenge of creating a sense of shared responsibility also noted.

    Trust and credibility at different levels at appropriate scales

    There was discussion about governance and the need to have co-ordination to work with land managers and public and private investors. It was suggested that this key co-ordination role is often missing or is too short-term given the need to establish and maintain relationships. Furthermore, it can be difficult to assign this task to the right people. Trust is a key issue for land managers who need a trusted intermediary - generally this means not from a government body as a neutral intermediary can better engage. It was suggested that government are trusted in some ways like the provision of information and being fair and equitable but in the context of land management, they are perceived as just ‘laying down the law’ without full engagement. Responsibility for management on the network was highlighted as a challenge, particularly in urban areas.

    Top-down vs bottom-up

    The discussion on governance continued and the need to find the right balance between ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ was a concern given the likelihood that some of it will need to be ‘top-down’. The grass roots were identified as being critical with emphasis on the need for the process not to be seen as top-down as other people need to feel that they have a voice.

    It was also suggested that policies which affect planning will need clarity so that Planning Authorities know how to take them forward and work with them. Planners will need to know where to go to get relevant information on nature networks. The concept of resilience also noted as important to deliver multiple benefits.

    Clear and consistent policy and governance

    There was some discussion on the fact that up to now there has been no consistent network across Scotland which has made it impossible for authorities to prioritise proposals which have potential to improve connectivity. The need for any nature network to be applied consistently across Scotland was therefore raised – how this could then be used comparably nationwide and could be developed to strategically contribute to habitat networks across wider areas. Priority networks have been mapped in Fife through ‘Opportunities Mapping’ and could be very useful and aspirational for elsewhere.

    It was suggested that although the idea of nature networks is good, it is difficult to imagine how it would come into practice. It was also suggested that there is strong potential that once nature networks are established / identified that they will continue to be lost to development and inevitable change (fragmentation and lack of resilience across different planning and regulation jurisdictions.

    The current heightened importance of economy and food production was noted as a hindrance to progress for nature, especially as it seems that mindsets are moving ‘backwards’ and away from prioritising biodiversity. It was mentioned that a lot of people don’t understand the importance of biodiversity at all and the need for nature networks needs to be better explained to the wider public. It was suggested that it will be essential to get everyone on board and not alienate certain parties in the process and this point was key to developing the common vision with all appearing in agreement.

    Finance mechanisms

    Metrics were discussed, particularly on how to address the need for a common sense of what we are collectively trying to achieve and how we could work together to deliver that. Green finance was mentioned as an important resource to try to tap into and the need to have a clearly defined approach to find ways to value and measure nature networks. The establishment of financial incentives and markets to facilitate investment in nature through networks noted as a large challenge, as well as the concept of natural capital being not well understood by land owners.

    Data

    There is a challenge of how to quantify and measure the benefits that habitat and land uses contribute to nature both individually and when combined within a network. For example, the question of how natural capital benefits can be included within the framework was raised. A big data gap exists on how land is currently used in Scotland.

    Adaptability of policy (with regard to climate change and biodiversity)

    A challenge that had traction with the group was noted as how the nature network framework must be suitably adaptive to be able to respond to the transient nature of climate change and biodiversity.