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What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is an abbreviated term for 'biological diversity'. It used to describe the rich variety of life on earth, every living thing form the smallest bacteria to largest animals and plants. A lot of people are happy just to refer to 'nature' or 'wildlife'.
Why does it matter?
This biodiversity is essential for sustaining the ecosystems that provide us with the air we breathe and the food we eat as well as all our other vital services like fuel, health and resources.
All life on earth, and our multi-billion pound economy, is linked to these ecosystem services in numerous ways, but as it is often difficult to place an economic value on these natural services they largely go unnoticed and under valued.
In addition, the Council has a legal obligation to protect biodiversity as it goes about its duties.
The Council’s legal Biodiversity Duty
Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 — "It is the duty of every public body and office-holder, in exercising any functions, to further the conservation of biodiversity so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions. In complying with the duty a body or office-holder must have regard to the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy."
The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy in turn contains the requirement to “Ensure the Local Biodiversity Action Plan network has adequate resources to support delivery of national objectives and to facilitate action by local people.”
Biodiversity Duty Report
We are also required under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 to produce a report every three years on our delivery of the Biodiversity Duty against a list of reporting requirements provided by the Scottish Government. We submitted the most recent report in December 2017.
Priorities for action for biodiversity in Clackmannanshire are set out in the local Biodiversity Action Plan. This is the local expression of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy which in turn reflects UK and international obligations.
The Biodiversity Action Plan is over a hundred pages long and covers cross cutting themes such as awareness raising and invasive species, as well as action for specific habitats and species.
Supporting Strategic Biodiversity Action
Action in this area has concentrated mostly on working with partnerships such as the Ochils Landscape Partnership, Forth Coastal Project and Inner Forth Landscape Initiative to address landscape and ecosystem scale projects
Delivering the Biodiversity Duty
Emphasis in this section is on integrating biodiversity into the Council’s business as usual wherever possible. This includes aspects such as business planning and online learning as well as the Local Development Plan, and providing support for key roles including planners and elected members.
Biological Data Recording and Management
We have been involved with a wide range of training with partners including the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, Sustrans, The Wildlife Information Centre, Buglife, Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), RSPB and Inner Forth Landscape Initiative as well as the Council’s Countryside Ranger Service.
Local Nature Conservation Sites
A key area of work for this Biodiversity Action Plan is to put in place a process for the review of these sites in order to assess and designate them as Local Nature Conservation Sites in accordance with Scottish Planning Policy.
Control of Invasive Species
The Council takes action on all invasive species reported on Council land, and we work with and provide information for landowners where possible. We have greatly increased action in this area and are undertaking pioneering initiatives such as Community River Monitoring Volunteers in partnership with TCV, but this is an increasing problem both locally and further afield.
Awareness Raising, Education and Participation
This includes running educational and volunteering events. The importance of voluntary and community action keeps growing ever greater, and although we consistently exceed the targets in the Biodiversity Action Plan in this area, an important question is how we can support volunteering better.
Funding, Delivery and Support
This includes support and advice for projects, volunteering and businesses. This has included input to planning applications, woodland management, and a workshop for land managers. Over 2015-2017, volunteer and partner action for nature in the county added up to 1,600 person days with a cash equivalent value of £390,000.
Actions in the Plan are divided into the five Ecosystems used in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Species specific actions are included in the ecosystem to which they most closely relate.
Action for uplands relate mainly to survey work in the Ochils. Stirling University, Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland have been particularly active in this respect and further programmed work is envisaged in 2018 and onwards.
Freshwater and Wetlands
The period has seen the establishment of the Black Devon Wetland by RSPB as a nature reserve alongside ongoing work at Cambus Pools and Gartmorn Dam, as well as otter surveys, a rare snail species reintroduction project with Buglife, and helping schools and community growers create ponds.
Management work has been undertaken in ten lowland woodlands over the past three years, but so far we have had less progress with upland woods. Red squirrel surveys have been undertaken and some work has been done to improve tree species mixes to create more favourable habitat for red squirrels.
Marine and Coastal
Along with measures to address tidal flooding, SWT have undertaken survey and monitoring work on Alloa and Tullibody Inches, and have an ongoing work programme for Cambus Pools. These and RSPB’s work at the Black Devon Wetlands have also been supported by the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative.
Farming, Lowland and Urban
Species surveys, and projects to improve or restore hedgerows and plant wildflower meadows such as with Sustrans and Greener Greenways volunteers, and by the Alva Glen Heritage Trust. A major element is working with communities in local green spaces, including community gardens.
The Biodiversity Action Plan originally ran from 2012 to 2017 but after establishing a working group review the Biodiversity Partnership extended it to 2020. We are now looking at a rolling review rather than seeking to rewrite the whole document.
The Council is the main but not the only body taking forward the Biodiversity Action Plan. The range of other organisations and individuals comprising the Clackmannanshire Biodiversity Partnership brings resources and skills beyond those available within the Council. Clackmannanshire was one of the first counties to establish a Biodiversity Partnership and it is now one of the most enduring and successful in the country. This is thanks to the skill and commitment of the many groups and individuals contributing their time and expertise, and also to the Council for its ongoing support and recognising the vital role that the partners play.
Membership of the Partnership is open to anyone or any body, and there are no limits on the number of members. The Partnership’s steering group currently meets four times yearly and is co-ordinated by the Council’s Development Officer. The current chair is Yvonne Boles of RSPB.
For more information, or for steering group agendas and minutes, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org