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Caithness Draft Plan
The Caithness Biodiversity Group  -  October 2002


Introduction to the Area
Introduction to Biodiversity
Caithness Biodiversity Objectives

Caithness Habitat Map

Introduction to the Area

Caithness is a land of open, rolling farmland, moorland and scattered settlements. The area is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to large, internationally important colonies of seabirds. The surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth and the North Sea hold a great diversity of marine life. Away from the coast, the landscape is dominated by open moorland and blanket bog, divided up along the straths or river valleys by more fertile farm and croft land.

The underlying geology, harsh climate and long history of human occupation have shaped this rich and distinctive natural heritage. Today we see a diverse landscape incorporating both common and rare habitats and species, and Caithness provides a stronghold for many once common species that have undergone serious declines elsewhere, such as wading birds, water voles and flocks of over-wintering birds.

Around 370 million years ago, during the Devonian age, Northern Caithness and Orkney were part of a vast freshwater lake, known as Lake Orcadie. Horizontal beds of siltstone (Caithness flag) and sandstone were laid down under this ancient inland lake, which once extended from Shetland to Inverness-shire and across to Norway. Fish fossils from this time can be found in old quarries such as Achanarras, near Spittal.

The main rock type is Old Red sandstone, laid down in layers and sculpted by ice and sea to produce some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the UK. Breeding seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars have exploited the resulting ledges at locations such as the Stacks of Duncansby and cliffs of Dunnet and Holburn Head.

Flagstones were an important raw material to Caithness folk, and can be seen all over the county as dykes, floors or roofing materials. During the late 1890s to the 1920s, Caithness flagstone was exported all over the world. Old quarries have been re-opened in recent years to meet a renewed demand.

A low-lying, maritime county, Caithness' climate is characterised by mild winters, cool summers and generally persistent winds. The wetlands and lochs do not often freeze, and this has been a factor in attracting large numbers of over-wintering wildfowl like greylag geese and wading birds such as dunlin and purple sandpiper.

Introduction to Biodiversity

Biodiversity, short for 'biological diversity', is a relatively new word that has been coined to express the richness of nature or variety of life. It came into use after the UK government signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Earth Summit in Rio di Janeiro in 1992.

Crucially, biodiversity is concerned with nature and people, and sees the natural world as a vital asset, essential to our survival and quality of life. As a concept, it asks us to use our resources in a sustainable manner, i.e. in a way that doesn't compromise our children's abilities to use them too.

"Biodiversity, our planet's most valuable resource,

is on loan to us from our children."

Highland Biodiversity Project

Local authorities and others are being encouraged to take local action to promote biodiversity, to compliment national action programmes and projects. A plan is being prepared for each area of Highland, focusing on the areas of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross & Cromarty East, Wester Ross, Skye & Lochalsh and Lochaber. Inverness & Nairn and Badenoch & Strathspey are already covered by related initiatives.

This plan for Caithness has been prepared by the Caithness Biodiversity Group, a group of local people representing a broad range of interests, see inset. It sets out what can be done in the next five to ten years. The plan is non-statutory, i.e. it is not legally binding. However, with increased emphasis being placed on biodiversity and related issues by successive governments, it is widely accepted that such plans will become increasingly important in the targeting of resources and setting of priorities.

Caithness Biodiversity Group

Members: Representing:

Barbara Bremner (Chairman) CASEG & SNH (conservation interests)

Ken Butler Field Club (ecological interests)

? ? (fishing interests)

Lesley Crawford CASTAG (angling interests)

Sinclair Manson Scottish Ornithologists Club (ornithological interests)

Danny Miller National Farmers Union of Scotland (agricultural interests)

Eann Sinclair CASE (economic / business interests)

Melanie Spirit Wick High School (educational interests)

John Waters SGA (sporting interests)

Caithness Biodiversity Action Plan

The following chapters list the national and local priority habitats and species that are present in each broad habitat, as identified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and by local people. It is divided into six chapters, each dealing with a broad habitat type: sea & coast; river, loch & wetland; farm and croft land; woodland; moorland, hill & bog; and town & village.

Each chapter gives a short introduction to the habitats and species present in Caithness, lists the main issues, and highlights some projects that are already working to improve the biodiversity of the area. The Plan then suggests some opportunities for future actions, and states what partners have agreed to do to help biodiversity in the next five to ten years.

Caithness Biodiversity Objectives

To ensure that all habitats are managed in a way that takes account of their wildlife and plant interests.

To raise awareness of the biodiversity of Caithness amongst local people, visitors, funding organisations and policy makers.

To promote projects and initiatives that help maintain or improve biodiversity towards natural levels.

To reduce perceived or real conflicts between biodiversity and people, and ensure that improvements in biodiversity also bring benefits to people, working in partnership for the betterment of both.

To facilitate easy access to information about important species and habitats, and their management requirements, to enable interested residents to improve their specialist knowledge.

To publicise existing sources of funding and secure additional support for biodiversity and related projects.

To establish a mechanism to help individuals, community groups and partners to deliver the Caithness Biodiversity Action Plan, monitor progress and share information on biodiversity matters.


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