Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 09:09 UK

Six key species get woodland aid

Black grouse, juniper berries, red squirrel, pearl bordered fritillary, capercaillie and chequered skipper
Six key species have been identified as being able to benefit from work to improve Scotland's woodlands. Chequered skipper courtesy Forestry Commission Scotland, all other pictures Science Photo Library

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

A programme has been launched to help six key species flourish in woodlands across Scotland.

Forestry Commission Scotland's new biodiversity plan aims to create "stronger, more adaptable ecosystems".

It identifies the capercaillie, black grouse, red squirrel, pearl-bordered fritillary, chequered skipper butterfly and juniper as important species.

Environment Minister Mike Russell launched the plan at the Carrick Forest in Dumfries and Galloway.

He said Scotland's forests had a key part to play in protecting endangered species.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTING THE SIX PRIORITY SPECIES
All declining and/or threatened but still widely distributed
Scotland holds a large proportion of the UK population
Forestry is important to their habitats
Managing of these species should have wider biodiversity benefits

"Woodlands - and the open spaces within them - have a vital contribution to make towards conserving Scotland's threatened habitats and species," he said.

"We are very fortunate in Scotland to enjoy a wealth of biodiversity that is for the most part robust and healthy.

"However, some elements are extremely fragile and making sure that they thrive will require some large-scale thinking and landscape scale vision - both of which are forestry sector strengths."

The biodiversity programme - Woods for Nature - sets out how FCS is helping to conserve and expand woodlands.

That, in turn, can assist the six priority species.

Three of them - the capercaillie, grouse and red squirrel - are the subject of "species action notes" published to coincide with the biodiversity plan.

Biggest threats

Further reports will follow for the pearl-bordered fritillary, chequered skipper butterfly and juniper.

The programme looks at most of the major issues facing woodland development across the country.

Among the biggest threats listed are "widespread browsing by deer or sheep" and "invasive non-native trees and shrubs".

However, the report highlights sample projects which could help ensure the survival of as many key species as possible.

In Moray, Forest Enterprise Scotland has undertaken work to "naturalise" Scots pine plantations.

Highland cattle
Highland cattle are being used as part of one biodiversity scheme

It has encouraged natural regeneration of pine, rowan and birches.

It has also helped the spread of plants like the blaeberry which is an important source of food and cover for young capercaillie.

At Glen Garry in the Highlands, they have come up with an unusual "forest management tool".

It is hoped that controlled grazing by Highland cattle can help encourage a more diverse native woodland in future.

Meanwhile, Mabie Forest in Dumfries and Galloway has been identified as a particularly rich site for butterflies.

FCS and Butterfly Conservation have joined forces to create a nature reserve in the centre of the forest.

However, they face a challenge in producing the right kind of habitat for different endangered species like the pearl-bordered fritillary, dingy skipper and forester moth.

'Wildlife haven'

Elsewhere in Scotland, rhododendron control is considered a major issue.

Now a regional project in Argyll and Bute hopes to go some way to addressing that problem.

The report does not limit its observations to rural areas.

An urban woodland at Drumchapel in Glasgow and a "wildlife haven" at a former mine site in South Lanarkshire are also highlighted as important projects.

Between all these schemes and many other initiatives, it is hoped that the six key species and many others can enjoy a safer future.

The FCS believes that can ultimately increase public awareness and enjoyment of the nation's woodland areas.


SEE ALSO
'Survival zones' for butterflies
16 Jul 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Recruits hired for squirrel fight
22 Jul 08 |  South of Scotland
Rare birds in danger from tourism
03 Mar 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Juniper threatened by plants' age
07 Feb 07 |  Science/Nature

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