Scotland's biodiversity: a route map to 2020

This route map sets out the priority work needed to meet the international Aichi Targets for biodiversity and improve the state of nature in Scotland.

Big Steps for Nature and Priority Projects

Big Step 1: Ecosystem Restoration

2020 Challenge Outcome: Scotland's ecosystems are restored to good ecological health so that they provide robust ecosystem services and build our natural capital.

Priority Project 1: Restoration of peatlands

Aim: Restore peatland condition and function in order to generate benefits through ecosystem services; carbon sequestration, carbon storage, water quality, flood management and more abundant nature.

Target: Ambitious peatland restoration programme underway, contributing to the EU 15% degraded ecosystem restoration target.

On-going work

  • Restore peatland and sequester carbon through 107
    peatland management agreements and grants awarded across Scotland covering 5,100 ha.
  • Flow Country Peatland Restoration - establish an international benchmark for good practice.

Planned work

  • National Peatland Plan published in 2015 and implementation begun.
  • Peatland restoration demonstration - 15 events for land managers and communities across Scotland.

Priority Project 2: Restoration of native woodland

Aim: Improve the condition and extent of existing native woodlands and further increase new woodland planting.


  • Increase the amount of native woodland in good condition (upwards from 46% as identified by the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland).
  • 3,000 to 5,000 ha of new native woodland creation per year.
  • Restore approximately 10,000 ha of native woodland into satisfactory condition in partnership with private woodland owners through Deer Management Plans.

On-going work

  • Provision of grants, information, promotional events and training
  • Conservation management on the National Forest Estate.
  • Development of deer management plans with public interest targets to contribute to the overall aim of native woodland restoration.

Planned work

  • Implement Scotland's Wild Deer: A National Approach.
  • Establish further mechanisms for lowland deer management.
  • Atlantic oakwood restoration - through rhododendron removal and conservation management ( LIFE funding bid in progress).
  • Atlantic hazelwood conservation and management ( LIFE funding bid in progress).

Priority Project 3: Restoration of freshwaters

Aim: To secure good ecological status for more rivers and lakes in Scotland and thereby secure biodiversity gains and a range of ecosystem services; through addressing diffuse pollution, invasive non-native species, physical modifications as well as riparian and wider-catchment land management issues.

Target: Achieve agreed ecological water quality objectives under
the Water Framework Directive of river and lake water bodies and
to contribute to meeting conservation objectives (including Natura 2000 sites) through scoping improvements to physical modifications.

On-going work

  • Development and implementation of two river basin management plans for the 2nd cycle (2015-2021) - delivering Water Framework Directive objectives and associated biodiversity benefits.
  • Physical restoration of rivers in priority catchments as part of
    the 'Pearls in Peril' LIFE project to deliver substantial biodiversity benefits and restore river function.

Planned work

  • Develop a community-based, riparian invasive non-native species ( INNS) project over approximately 29,500 square km of Northern Scotland. Development of catchment scale long-term control with a focus on freshwaters will reduce the economic, social and environmental impacts of INNS in the long term ( HLF stage 1 bid submitted).
  • Focused measures on priority catchments for diffuse pollution with associated biodiversity benefits.
  • Physical restoration of four pilot catchments with associated biodiversity benefits.
  • Contribute to IUCN River Restoration and Biodiversity project.

Big Step 2 - Investment in Natural Capital

2020 Challenge Outcome: Natural resources contribute to stronger sustainable growth in Scotland, and we increase our natural capital
to pass on to the next generation.

Priority Project 4: Securing economic and social benefits from, and investment in, natural capital

Aim: Economic and social benefits from improving Scotland's natural capital are demonstrated, and investment secured through new or existing instruments.

Target: Businesses are more aware of their reliance on Scotland's natural capital, and more investment is being made in building natural capital.

On-going work

  • Promoting the Woodland Carbon Code to attract investment in woodland creation.
  • Developing the Peatland Code as a framework for investing in peatland restoration.
  • Developing the Natural Capital Asset Index ( NCAI) as a means of assessing Scotland's natural capital and the sustainability of the Scottish economy.

Planned work

  • Identify opportunities for new investment by business in green infrastructure, especially in the CSGN area.

Big Step 3 - Quality greenspace for health and education benefits

2020 Challenge Outcome: Improved health and quality of life for the people of Scotland, through investment in the care of greenspace, nature
and landscapes.

Priority Project 5: More people experiencing and enjoying nature

Aim: Improve levels of regular participation in outdoor recreation, volunteering and learning by all of Scotland's people.

Target: Increase regular visits and active travel in greenspace through improved infrastructure, information, and campaigns, and the provision of activities and events.

On-going work

  • Supporting the better provision and quality of greenspace through development planning and place-making.
  • Delivering national and local participation campaigns, events and activities and outreach work targeted at under-represented groups.
  • Developing more opportunities for the public to engage in volunteering and citizen science through Scotland Counts and SEWeb.

Planned work

  • Better provision of information on opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, including the development of a national web portal to the natural environment.
  • Delivering the National Walking and Cycling Network and promoting its use by the public.
  • Provision of green infrastructure in central Scotland through Scotland's 2014-2020 Structural Funds Programme ( ERDF application in progress).

Priority Project 6: Taking Learning Outdoors

Aim: Increase secondary and primary schools' access to greenspace and nature for outdoor learning as part of the wider 'Learning for Sustainability' agenda.

Target: 100 schools in the 20% most disadvantaged areas across Scotland have access to quality greenspace for outdoor learning.

On-going work

  • Providing outdoor learning information and opportunities in National, Regional and Local Parks, Nature Reserves, and the National Forest Estate.
  • Supporting teachers through the network of Outdoor and Woodland Learning ( OWL) groups and use Teaching in Nature and other similar programme to ensure that they are able to deliver outdoor learning in practice.
  • Develop and improve greenspace provision and opportunities for outdoor learning close to schools.

Planned work

  • Develop and improve greenspace provision and opportunities for outdoor learning close to schools in the most disadvantaged communities in Scotland.

Priority Project 7: Developing Scotland's natural health service

Aim: NHS Health Boards to promote health benefits from physical outdoors activity and contact with nature, with green exercise routinely prescribed by health professionals as part of the physical activity pathway.

Target: Improve greenspace quality and use on at least one hospital or health care facility in each NHS health board in mainland Scotland.

On-going work

  • Developing and promoting a green exercise tool-kit for use by the health and environment sectors.
  • Delivering a NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project; providing quality greenspace for use by patients, visitors and staff for treatment, recovery, recreation and relaxation.

Planned work

  • Deliver 2nd phase of the NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project to complete mainstreaming of greenspace provision and use on the NHS estate.
  • Support better mapping, provision and use of green exercise opportunities as part of three area-based initiatives with health boards and local authorities to increase physical activity levels, improve mental health and tackle health inequalities.

Big Step 4 - Conserving wildlife in Scotland

2020 Challenge Outcome: The special value
and international importance of Scotland's nature and geodiversity is assured, wildlife is faring well and we have a highly effective network of protected places.

Priority Project 8: Protected Areas in good condition

Aim: Ensure protected sites are under good conservation management.

Target: At least 80% of designated 'features' in favourable condition by 2016.

On-going work

  • Focusing action on those sites that are in most need of effective conservation management.
  • Undertake work to ensure that at least 18% of land and freshwater is under conservation designation.

Planned work

  • Work towards improving the condition of protected sites in the longer term.

Priority Project 9: Conservation of priority species

Aim: Deliver focused action for priority species in Scotland.

Target: Six high profile wildlife projects underway in 2015, with a further suite of species projects to be developed.

On-going work

  • Freshwater pearl mussel conservation: protecting, restoring and securing populations in 19 SACs in Scotland (and one each in England and Wales).
  • Langholm Moorland Demonstration Project - sustainable management for moorland habitat, red grouse, hen harriers
    and other wildlife.
  • Increasing abundance of ground nesting birds through the eradication of North American mink on the Outer Hebrides.
  • Removing black rats, and other remedial work, on the Shiant
    islands to improve success of breeding seabirds.
  • Under PAWS (Partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland), implement action plan for hen harriers involving intelligence
    sharing, enforcement and awareness raising to combat wildlife crime.
  • Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels Project - collaborative work with many landowners to safeguard the red squirrel population in stronghold ranges.

Planned work

  • South Scotland golden eagle reinforcement project initiated
    in 2015.
  • Wildcat action plan implemented.
  • Publish and implement conservation and management priorities arising from the completed review of the Scottish Biodiversity List.
  • Develop a suite of species focussed projects (e.g. concerned with restoring populations of curlew, corncrake, corn bunting, water
    vole, pearl-bordered fritillary, great yellow bumblebee, alpine
    blue-sowthistle, tufted saxifrage, marsh saxifrage, and rare lichens of the west coast temperate woodlands).
  • Publish and implement Pollinator Strategy for Scotland.
  • Publish and implement Plant Health Strategy for Scotland.

Big Step 5 - Sustainable management of land and freshwater

2020 Challenge Outcome: Nature is faring well and ecosystems are resilient as a result of sustainable land and water management.

Priority Project 10: Improving ecological connection

Aim: Improve habitat and species resilience, contribute to wider ecosystem services (such as improved natural flood management and reducing diffuse pollution) and contribute to the socio-economics of central Scotland.

Target: Improve connectivity between habitats and ecosystems.

On-going work

  • Habitat management to support connections for eight sites within the CSGN area through EcoCo LIFE project.

Planned work

  • Develop a national ecological network to enable characterisation of the nature of Scotland, and to help with the identification of priority areas for action on habitat restoration, creation and protection.
  • Develop integrated habitat 'opportunity' mapping for central Scotland and identify delivery mechanisms.

Project Priority 11: Sustainable land management

Aim: Support sustainable land management under the Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) and establish a network of demonstration sites in which ecosystem health is improved alongside agricultural production.

Target: Promotion of measures to support biodiversity under CAP. A suite of sites demonstrating good practice aimed at supporting wildlife.

On-going work

  • Targeted support for sustainable land management practices under SRDP Agri-Environment Climate and Forestry Grant Schemes.
  • Support for biodiversity on arable farms through the Ecological Focus Areas CAP greening requirement, and increased protection for hedgerows and watercourses under cross compliance.
  • The Wildlife Estates Scotland ( WES) Initiative - encouraging best practice and demonstrating how sustainable game and wildlife management can deliver multiple benefits, including wildlife conservation, and wide society and rural community benefits.
  • Demonstration Farms - including LEAF Farms and Climate Change Focus Farms, plus research and teaching farms run by Scotland's Rural College ( SRUC) and James Hutton Institute ( JHI) delivering multiple benefits.

Planned work

  • Support for landscape-scale agri-environment management under the new SRDP Environmental Cooperation Action Fund.
  • Promotion of agri-environment and sustainable farming practices through the SRDP Farm Advisory Service and Scottish Rural Network.
  • Seeking EC approval to implement CAP greening through a certification scheme from 2016, including new nutrient efficiency measures on grassland farms.
  • Expand network of demonstration farms which support biodiversity through good practice and research. Demonstrate ways in which farming can sustain multiple benefits, and reverse the declines in vascular plants and specialist groups of invertebrates and birds.

Big Step 6 - Marine and Coastal ecosystems restored

2020 Challenge Outcome: Scotland's marine and coastal environments are clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse, meeting the long-term needs of the people
and nature.

Priority Project 12: Increase environmental status of our seas

Aim: establish effective protection and management of nature in Marine Protected Areas and safeguard priority marine features.

Target: 10% of Scotland's seas to be incorporated in nature conservation Marine Protected Areas.

On-going work

  • Developing the evidence base through setting and delivering a surveillance/ monitoring strategy that will allow authoritative reporting of state and progress.
  • Completing the suite of MPAs (including the additional NATURA sites) and agreeing and delivering measures for their effective management.
  • Putting in place Regional Marine Plans that incorporate provision for decision making that promotes ecological coherence between protected areas and safeguards Priority Marine Features.

Table 1 summarises the priority projects that are underway and their contributions to the Big Steps for Nature, the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy outcomes and key steps to addressing pressures, and to delivering against the Aichi targets.

Supporting Work

Work is needed to support these projects, and improve knowledge and effectiveness through gathering and presenting information to aid decision making. This is being undertaken across agencies, NGOs and businesses, and examples include:

  • Natural Capital Asset Index ( NCAI) used to inform decision making;
  • Ecosystem Health Indicators published on Scotland's Environment Web (SEWeb) to inform local decision making and help set targets and priorities for action;
  • A new habitat map of Scotland based on the pan-European EUNIS- Annex I classification by 2019;
  • Citizen science: continue work to increase the number
    of people providing data and information on the state of nature and raise awareness of the benefits nature provides;
  • Carbon rich soil map published in 2015 to help inform decision making;
  • INNS prevention: Preventing the introduction and spread of INNS by improving biosecurity and surveillance, and responding quickly to control new outbreaks;
  • Raising awareness amongst businesses through the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital and exploring new opportunities for investment; and
  • With Young Scotexplore opportunities to engage young people in delivery of the 2020 Challenge.

Geographically-focused work

A range of biodiversity-related work focussed on particular places and areas in Scotland, often working at a landscape scale and on a collaborative basis, has been in place for many years and will continue to be important. Examples include the work of Scotland's National Parks (through Cairngorms Nature and Wild Park 2020), management of Scotland's National Forest Estate, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' ( RSPB) 'Futurescapes', the Scottish Wildlife Trust's ( SWT) 'Living Landscapes' and the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere. Other relevant initiatives include the early work to pilot collaboration on priority catchments where a focus of activity, particularly by government agencies, could deliver multiple benefits; and the Land Use Strategy Pilots in the Scottish Borders and Aberdeenshire.

Examples of focused action on priority species and habitats include:

  • Cairngorms National Park: wading birds, invertebrates, Scottish wildcats and capercaillie, peatland restoration, and native woodland, peatland and moorland management;
  • Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park: red squirrel, black grouse, peatlands, woodlands and focused action on invasive non-native species such as rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and American skunk cabbage.
  • National Forest Estate: protecting and conserving priority habitats, tackling invasive species and monitoring key species.
  • National Nature Reserves: management and restoration of peatlands, native woodlands and freshwaters; work on priority species; and conserving a wide range of rare and special places for people to enjoy.


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