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The Sutherland Biodiversity Action Plan - October 2003


The 2001 Census states that Sutherland has a total population of 13,778. Of this, 3,750 people live in settlements of over 500 people (Brora, Golspie and Dornoch), and the rest live in smaller towns, villages and crofting communities. With its small, scattered population, Sutherland does not have any extensive built-up areas. However, the variety of managed landscapes in and around its towns, villages, crofting townships and isolated houses make a major contribution to the biodiversity in their vicinity, as do the roads that connect them.


Biodiversity objectives
To raise awareness of the biodiversity on people’s doorsteps through initiatives such as ‘Know Your Own Patch’.

o ensure the biodiversity of roadside verges and hedges and nearby streams and water courses is taken into account in future maintenance contracts.

Specific habitats discussed in Section 2
Parks & gardens
Roadside verges

Key Issues

A. Lack of resources

Issues: With increasing budgetary constraints, park and public garden management is becoming less well resourced, and biodiversity is not always high on the agenda of the park managers or indeed, the general public.

Opportunities: Leaving some grass areas long and uncut and hedges untrimmed on roadsides will benefit biodiversity and save costs, but there may be a need for awareness raising amongst local people as to the benefits of such management.

Future actions:
Garden for wildlife by growing food plants for butterflies, providing nesting space in ivy or nest boxes, creating mini ponds, composting garden waste, leaving a ‘wild corner’ and fitting cats with bell collars (everyone).

Leave old tree trunks, piles of wood or stones around gardens and villages as possible homes for insects and nesting birds (everyone).

Reduce rubbish and try not to let bins overflow (everyone).

Leave seed plants as winter food for birds (farmers & crofters, Highland Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group)

Involve children in the environmental enhancement of parks, cemeteries and public gardens (community groups, Highland Council Ranger Service, the Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage).


B. Lack of awareness on biodiversity issues

Issues: There is a general lack of awareness on biodiversity issues around villages and towns in Sutherland.

Opportunities: Encourage people to learn about their local wildlife and document it.

Current projects: The Highland Council Ranger Service does a lot to raise awareness of biodiversity issues in Sutherland through regular guided walks, talks, slide shows and other events.

The Highland Biodiversity Project helped three communities undertake ‘Know Your Own Patch’ projects in Skerray, Stoer and Ardgay. The Skerray Historical Association is undertaking a survey of the flora and fauna around Skerray. Pupils of Stoer Primary School have been taking part in a project to
find out more about the biodiversity of a local loch entitled ‘What Lives in Our Loch?’. The Gearrchoille Woodland Group held a Woodland Open Day and series of events to find out more about the trees and wildlife in their local woodland.

Future action:
Undertake more Know Your Own Patch projects to help people find out more about their local wildlife (community groups and councils, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Highland Council Ranger Service).

C. Fungal infections

Issues: Fungal infections and loss of old trees are a threat to urban trees and parklands. Old trees and deadwood are acknowledged micro-habitats, but are often removed in an attempt to ‘tidy up’ parks and gardens.

Opportunities: By raising awareness of the value of deadwood, there will be less pressure to tidy up public parks and gardens. Old and dead trees should be retained where possible, and new trees planted to replace any that have been removed.

D. Road verge and hedge maintenance
Issues: If verge vegetation is cut before the wild flowers have time to set seeds, they will gradually be lost in favour of rank grasses. Spread of invasive species such as ragwort is a big problem in some areas. Where safety permits, hedges should also be left uncut to provide a source of food and shelter for birds through the winter.

Opportunities: Biodiversity elements should be incorporated into roadside maintenance specifications, combined with awareness raising of the likely benefits to be had from such works. A ragwort eradication programme has been suggested.

Ben Loyal