The Scottish Wildlife Trust
has long been involved in the identification of areas of importance
for wildlife. Historically these were assembled by local members.
In some areas an historical list of sites does not exist.
The recognition of such 'local wildlife sites' within local and
structure plans has led to the need to ensure that the identification
of a site can be justified, that the process of selection is consistent,
that the implications for conservation and management are followed
through, and that they are relevant to user groups, organisations
and individuals. The Scottish Wildlife Action Programme was launched
by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in 1998 to respond to these demands
with the following objectives:
identify and assess all 'Wildlife Sites' throughout lowland Scotland;
develop effective liaison with the landowners, the relevant statutory
bodies and other organisations, to encourage the long term conservation
of these sites;
use SWT's local and national expertise and strength to address
any threats to the Wildlife Sites to prevent their destruction.
A key objective, also, of many Local Biodiversity Action Plans
is to ' identify and safeguard Local Wildlife Sites'.
A process for defining Wildlife Sites has been described in detail
by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (Wildlife Sites Manual, 1996).
The sequence of analysis defined by the Scottish Wildlife Trust
builds on a Phase 1 survey of the area concerned involving both
desk and field survey second stage involves the evaluation of surveyed
sites against defined criteria of species and habitat diversity
and rarity, naturalness, extent, vulnerability, access, amenity
and education potential. Such criteria, however, cannot always be
applied directly in the preliminary site search.
In the absence of a completed Phase 1 or habitat survey of the
region the identification process must initially build on:
the information resources identified in any local Environmental
the sum of knowledge held by local naturalists;
published records of sites, species and areas;
distribution data held or published on individual species or groups;
occasional area or habitat specific surveys.
SWT already recognises the importance of existing data sources
and aerial photographic coverage in developing a habitat survey.
For many areas the best current guidance to regional and local habitats
of significance is provided by the work done for the Local Biodiversity
Action Plan, a programme not available previously to other wildlife
All sites identified should:
meet species and habitat priorities agreed through the Local Biodiversity
provide opportunities for conservation action;
demonstrate the relevance of the LBAP to the region's wildlife;
represent both the diversity and quality of the region's wildlife;
represent a geographic spread within the region.
Several alternative approaches are possible to meet the needs of
this initial survey stage.
a) It has been suggested that a GIS based analysis (or similar
manual system) using data sets on biodiversity, distribution and
rarity could be employed to enhance the existing Biogeographic Zonation
of Scotland (SNH) to a local scale (say 1km square refined by other
geographic and ecological information to give an 'on the ground'
site definition). The problems that might be encountered include:
data sets are inconsistent or difficult to access;
the timescale is inadequate;
it does easily result in site specific information;
it is not directly compatible with the Wildlife Site System;
further assessment would be needed to incorporate LBAP priorities.
b) Other land analysis tools (e.g. LCS88, landscape characterisation
maps, local habitat mapping, aerial photographs) could be combined
to reveal detailed environmental patterns but this would be:
not directly related to biodiversity;
not conservation orientated.
c) SNH has also investigated a method of assessing natural heritage
resources on a broad area basis (SNH, 1996). This might have problems
it does not provide site specific information;
requires field examination/ confirmation;
an extensive time scale might be required.
Whilst any of these approaches might, in the longer term, provide
useful benefits to the Local Biodiversity Action Plan programme,
their employment would require time and resources to be applied.
A simpler approach might be to assess an initial list of sites
drawn from the sources listed at the top of this note against the
perceived reliability of information source;
presence of supportive habitat rarity, fragility or diversity data;
presence of supportive species rarity, fragility or diversity data;
distribution within LBAP priorities;
distribution within regional geographic patterns;
provide an appropriate scale for survey and for conservation action.