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A Draft Framework for Biodiversity in Highland

The species and habitats resource

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan identifies 238 priority species and 41 priority habitats (plus Birch woodland, which is to be added) which occur in Scotland. Highland supports 192 of the priority species and 455 of the “other species of conservation importance”. 40 of the 42 priority habitats are present in Highland.

This presents a somewhat daunting responsibility, with Highland having not only a high proportion of the species, but also often being the stronghold or even the sole location for them. A high proportion of the priority species occur in a very restricted number of sites however. In the majority of cases the management of these species and sites is already in hand, being undertaken by organisations such as SNH. It is the more wide-ranging species which attract less dedicated management and which generally will therefore most benefit from Local Biodiversity Action Plans.

Many species share the same ecological requirements, such that a certain management regime may benefit many species. At a national level this has already been recognised, and either species are grouped together within single plans or plans are being implemented in a co-ordinated way.

In the case of Highland a number of key habitats support significant numbers of the priority species, such that maintaining appropriate management of the habitat will maintain the species. Key habitats in this category in Highland include:
native pine woodlands (particularly important for wood ants, fungi, red squirrel, capercaillie and other priority species), arable farmland (8 priority bird species are associated), montane habitats (not identified as a national priority habitat their own right, despite supporting many priority species) and rivers and their associated habitats.

The UK priority species lists are only part of the biodiversity picture. They do not necessarily identify those species which are “keystone” species for certain habitats, but themselves are not rare and therefore not “priority species”. An example is kelp forests. Kelp is not rare, but provides a source of food not only for the animals that lives amongst it, but also most animals in the surrounding area. In addition locally important species are often strongly contributing to the distinctiveness of specific areas. Both of these issues should be addressed in LPBAs.