Climate change adaptation programme: progress report 2023

Fourth annual progress report on "Climate Ready Scotland: Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019 to 2024".

8. Progress on SCCAP2 'Natural Environment' outcome

SCCAP2 Outcome 5: Our natural environment is valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and has increased resilience to climate change.

This outcome has two sub-outcomes. These sub-outcome split across the adaptability of terrestrial natural systems' themselves and the social and cultural benefits that societies obtain from ecosystems. The products and economic value obtained from ecosystems (provisioning services) are considered under outcome 3.

Examples of progress on cross-cutting policies in support of this outcome

Environment Strategy – The Scottish Government's Environment Strategy vision and outcomes, published in 2020, describe our long-term ambitions for restoring Scotland's natural environment and playing our part in tackling the global climate and nature crises. The Environment Strategy's second progress report to Parliament is due to be published in March 2023.

Scottish Biodiversity Strategy – Biodiversity is the best chance we have to adapt to climate change and ensure we can continue to enjoy nature's benefits, on which we all depend. The new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy published in December 2022 sets out our vision to 2045 and the long term outcomes needed in Scotland to address the ongoing decline in biodiversity including ensuring on land, on coasts and in our seas, our natural environment, our habitats, ecosystems and species, are resilient and adapting to climate change. The strategy outlines 26 priority actions needed to achieve the vision of halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and reversing the trend by 2045.

Deer management – A multi-agency Strategic Deer Board was established to progress agreement on priorities for the next few years to deliver on biodiversity and climate change targets, informed by the Independent Deer Working Group Report. This provides the opportunity to reframe the public interest associated with deer management, and to increase momentum towards sustainability. The coordinated programme of deer work being progressed includes legislative change, striking a balance between regulatory and incentive approaches, and effective monitoring of operational delivery on the ground. The development of regionally prioritised action plans will allow focus on the greatest opportunities, including resilience of nature and contributions of nature to wider adaptation.

Embedding nature-based adaptation in farming – We helped develop enhanced conditionality measures recently published by Scottish Government to demonstrate what is being considered and evaluated as part of future agriculture support. Relevant measures include enhancing soil health and improved diversity of agricultural habitats. We are also developing a Biodiversity Audit (under Preparing for Sustainable Farm - National Test Programme) to enable farmers and crofters to map and assess the condition of farm habitats, with accurate baseline data being essential to enable effective management on farm for climate and nature. Additionally, our Piloting an Outcomes Based Approach in Scotland (POBAS) project, promoting greater diversification of farm habitats to support adaptation of nature, was further expanded, including development of an app.

Examples of progress on policies in support of sub-outcome that: "Scotland's biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes are adaptable to the changing climate"

Nature Restoration Fund 2021-2026 – The £65 million fund Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) funded more than 60 projects focused on restoration of land and sea in the year 2021-2022. Two separate NRF strands were established: one funding projects <£250k to be delivered over a maximum of 2 years (Helping Nature); and one funding and developing projects >£250k delivered over multiple years (Transforming Nature). In 2022, the Helping Nature strand of the Fund supported 44 projects. This included projects specifically on climate resilience (Inner Forth Climate Resilience) to help species adapt to climate variability and the creation of wetlands such as the project at Balgavies Loch, helping to retain sediment coming from run off in the wider agricultural catchment.

Building evidence around Protected Areas – During 2022, NatureScot progressed work to develop a holistic ecosystem health based approach to protected areas monitoring. This is tied into our current work to develop the Nature Networks and 30x30 frameworks. By focussing on monitoring the most impactful pressures and threats to nature, and applying the approach across more of Scotland's land, Nature will become more resilient to the impacts of nature. This complex realignment of our monitoring approach will progress over the next two years and will be underpinned by our current protected areas monitoring programme through the transition phase.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) – During 2022 work continued to enhance NNRs as crucial nodes for the resilience of nature and of its many benefits, notably through restoration of peatland, upland habitats, woodland expansion and management of Invasive Non-Native Species to enhance habitats. NatureScot also implemented measures that enhance the contribution of NNRs to climate adaptation and emissions-reduction in combination. This has included the provision of charging points to reduce emissions by visitors and encourage use of electric vehicles. Investment in infrastructure is also helping reduce erosion and habitat damage in sensitive upland and coastal areas.

Biological Diversity Monitoring – NatureScot and Scottish Government colleagues were part of the UK team at COP15 (UN Convention on Biological Diversity). NatureScot specialists also helped draft the target for genetic diversity (safeguarding genetic diversity is essential for biodiversity to be resilient in the face of climate change). Species data shows a continuation of the trend for sun-loving butterflies to colonise Scotland. A new breakdown of breeding birds' data has allowed us to look in more detail into the links with schemes, such as farm woodland creation and other management schemes. Breeding birds are increasing in farm woodland sites, suggesting that carbon sequestration and biodiversity can both benefit from appropriate management.

Pollinator Strategy for Scotland 2017-2027 – There was activity across all 5 Objectives of the Strategy, notably on the following:

  • The work of the Scottish Wildlife Trust-led Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network saw more habitat managed and created specifically for the benefit of Pollinators.
  • Stirling Council completed a public consultation and are now delivering a Pollinator Action Plan which complements the ambitions of Scotland's Pollinator Strategy.
  • NatureScot's annual pollinator conference drew together Community Groups to share examples of good practice in creating pollinator-friendly habitat whilst raising awareness of the importance of pollinators.

Peatland restoration – In 2020, ambitious plans were announced to invest more than £250 million over ten years to restore at least 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands by 2030. NatureScot's investment in restoration in 2022-2023 is on track to deliver our target of putting 4,700 hectares of degraded peatland on the road to recovery. The multiple benefits – including in terms of resilience to further climate change - are monitored and promoted thanks to the roll-out of a Monitoring Strategy and Monitoring Network. Our provision of technical advice and capacity building made use of our new Technical Compendium, and a new Skills Plan which has seen training delivered to 405 people so far in 2022-2023.

Expanding the Area of Forests and Woodlands – Scotland is leading the way with new woodland creation, establishing around 76% of all new woodland created across the UK last year by April 2022. Scotland planted over 10,480 hectares whilst the rest of the UK planted 3,360 hectares. The Forestry Grant Scheme funds a range of forestry activities, including woodland creation and native woodland management, and has £51.7 million of commitments for projects to be delivered in 2022/23 (of which £45.2 million is for woodland creation). All these projects are due to be completed by applicants and claimed by 31 March 2023. The creation of new woodland in Scotland is making a critical contribution to responding to a green recovery and the global climate emergency.

Enhancing environmental benefits of forestry – Scottish Forestry worked with Forest Research alongside other devolved agencies to publish the UK Forestry Standard Practice Guide: Designing and managing forests and woodlands to reduce flood risk in October 2022. The guidance provides practical advice to landowners, managers and authorities involved in flood risk management on how best to manage and design forests to reduce flooding. Additionally, work is ongoing by Forest Research on finalising a UK Forestry Standard Practice Guide: Creating and managing riparian woodlands with input from Scottish Forestry and all devolved agencies. The guidance will assist in the planning and design of riparian woodlands and management approaches to improve habitat and protect water resources.

Scottish Forestry are working to deliver the Programme for Government commitment to improve support for tree planting around rivers and streams in areas which take account of multiple benefits by April 2023. Target areas for riparian woodland planting are being identified based on where there is the greatest multiple benefit gain and will ensure grant support is focused in these priority areas. In January 2023, Forest Research published a study, commissioned by Scottish Forestry, which estimates the capacity of woodlands to store and slow runoff is worth almost £100 million per year to Scotland.

Scotland's Rainforests – Scottish Government is committed to restoration of the rainforest. Scottish Forestry is currently recruiting for a Rainforest Action Co-Ordinator to help to co-ordinate this important work. The post will work closely with the Alliance for Scotland's Rainforest, Forestry Land Scotland, NatureScot, and other key partners to develop a strategic approach to restoration of the rainforest. They will also help to co-ordinate investment opportunities and delivery plans across engaged parties.

Following the recent spending review Forestry and Land Scotland have been awarded £1.3 million from Scottish Government to support the conservation of Scotland's rainforests. FLS manages over 14,500 hectares, or about third of the estimated Scotland's rainforest in the rainforest zone, but, like much other rainforest in Scotland, it is threatened by deer browsing and invasive rhododendron. This funding will enable FLS to undertake an increase in rhododendron management, PAWS restoration and deer management on Scotland's National Forests and Land, and work with neighbours and partners to achieve landscape-scale restoration.

Scottish Forestry are in discussions with a range of organisations and public sector bodies to determine how we could scale up support in the longer term, including on the scope to further attract responsible private investment.

Adaptability and Resilience of Forests and Woodlands – The UKFS Practice Guide - Adapting forest and woodland management to the changing climate was published in 2022. The Practice Guide provides advice to forest and woodland owners, managers, planners and policymakers on how to adapt management and plan for the changing climate by providing an adaptation framework that takes the reader through the process of choosing and implementing appropriate adaptation measures. It brings together the latest insights from research and practice, supplemented by case studies to show how adaptation measures are being applied. This Guide supports the UK Forestry Standard and its Guidelines on Climate Change, which are the primary source of information on good practice requirements.

Scottish Forestry shared a framing and discussion paper on Building Resilient Future Forests with the National Forestry Stakeholder meeting 10 November 2022. The feedback will be used to develop a Resilience Implementation Plan which will identify policy priorities to increase the use of adaptation and resilience measures in the forest industry in Scotland.

Scottish Forestry also worked with Forest Research and the devolved administrations to deliver the Climate Change Hub which brings together information and practical guidance about protecting our UK woodlands and forests from the impacts and risks due to the changing climate through adaptive practice. The hub was launched in January 2023 and summarises the science and provides straightforward, practical support for landowners, woodland managers and forestry practitioners.

Ensuring Sustainable Management of Forests and Woodlands – The four administrations of the UK are undertaking a review of the current UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) which defines the agreed approach to sustainable forest management across the UK. The UKFS includes good forestry practice requirements and specifically addresses soils, water, biodiversity, landscape and natural heritage, people, and climate change. Engaging stakeholders is an important aim of the review and there has been a two-stage stakeholder consultation process. The first consultation which closed in August 2021 was based on a range of cross-cutting themes. The second consultation which closed in December 2022 was on the draft content of the next edition of the UKFS. The draft that went to consultation had been informed by both the specialists' assessment and responses to the first consultation. The responses to both consultations have helped ensure that the Standard is balanced, relevant and applicable across the UK. Final publication of the UKFS is due by the summer of 2023.

River Basin Management Plans – The River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) set out how Scottish Government, SEPA, other responsible authorities and partners work together to protect and improve the water environment in Scotland. The plans aim to prevent deterioration and improve the quality of the water environment to at least good condition. On behalf of the Scottish Government, SEPA published the RBMPs for 2021 to 2027 in December 2021. The plans are structured around how RBMPs can help deliver Scotland's environment strategy, contributing to a net-zero circular economy. It has a focus on tackling overuse of natural resources, the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. The plan takes a whole systems approach to dealing with these issues focussed on the themes of: healthier and more resilient communities; water supply and wastewater infrastructure; sustainable and resilient rural land-use; and removing man-made barriers to fish migration.

Wild Salmon Strategy – The Wild Salmon Strategy, published by the Scottish Government in January 2022 includes an action to 'improve climate resilience of rivers, for example through supporting targeted riparian tree planting and natural regeneration and peatland restoration'. The accompanying Implementation Plan was published in February 2023 details the actions required to deliver this. The Scottish Government is working in partnership with Scottish Forestry to develop and implement an integrated approach to riverbank management. This includes enhancements to the Forestry Grant Scheme with the aim of improved support for tree planting around rivers and streams.

Examples of progress on policies in support of sub-outcome that "Scotland's natural environment and its contribution to wider societal adaptation is enjoyed, valued and maintained"

Outdoor Learning in Nature – The Learning in Local Greenspace project (2015-2021) exceeded its target of 100 green spaces being regularly used for outdoor learning and play, improving the greenspaces where necessary to allow this to happen. It engaged 115 schools from 12 local authorities, providing project resources, advice and staff training on outdoor learning. The project amounted to a long-term investment in community adaptation. Evidence showed that it raised awareness of the physical and mental health benefits of time spent in nature, and increased the capacity of the adults of the future to access those benefits.

The Nature Discovery Map Scotland pilot involves young people in learning about and enhancing nature in and around their school grounds. This is part of the UK initiative for an 'Education Nature Park' which aims to sustain and enhance biodiversity across the educational establishment estate. An interactive digital mapping toolkit is being co-designed and tested with a small number of schools, to inform a potential national roll-out in 2023. This investment in community adaptation will increase understanding of biodiversity in the adults of the future, and more directly will support biodiversity recording and enhancements to habitats.

Our National Health Service (ONHS) Programme – The ONHS programme, led by NatureScot, supports the up-scaling of nature-based solutions to contribute to public health outcomes around physical inactivity, mental ill-health and health inequalities. The work of four Green Health Partnerships (GHPs) in Dundee, North Ayrshire, Highland and Lanarkshire continues to achieve co-benefits for climate change adaptation by championing biodiversity and high quality multi-function green space, and boosting climate-nature literacy to promote community resilience. In 2022, the GHPs delivered co-ordinated promotion of the benefits of activities such as walking and cycling during Green Health Week, and worked with delivery partners including active travel hubs to help people overcome barriers to changing how they get around.

The fourth Partnership in Lanarkshire has now been mainstreamed by NHS Lanarkshire, in accordance with the NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy (published Aug 2022), which includes an action for all Health Boards to establish Green Health Partnerships. The remaining three GHPs within the ONHS programme have been funded for a further two years to enable completion of an impact evaluation. A webinar held in early 2023 shared the initial findings of the GHP evaluation along with other green social prescribing examples across Scotland in preparation for supporting the roll out of Green Health Partnership approaches across NHS Boards.

Public engagement in Woodland Creation and Forest Management – Forest owners and managers are encouraged to consult local communities and interested parties on the development of woodland creation proposals and forest management plans. The 2022-2023 programme for government commits the Scottish Government to enhance the Forestry Grant Scheme to deliver better community engagement and is working to deliver improvements in 2023. Scottish Forestry launched the 'Scottish Junior Forester Award' last year and the Outdoor and Woodland Learning (OWL) Scotland provided support to five local OWL Groups to provide teachers with training on how to deliver this award with pupils into the future.

Walking and Cycling Networks – Helping our natural environment adapt can support our health and wellbeing and enjoyment of the outdoors. Transport Scotland continued to fund development of the NCN in 2022-2023 to further develop routes on the 30-year Strategic Network Plan for Scotland including pipeline delivery projects. Funding for NCN has increased to £10.6 million in 2022-2023 to support this development. £35 million per annum capital funding goes direct to local authorities through the Cycling Walking and Safer Routes (CWSR) grant in 2022-2023.

Over £50 million of this year's active travel budget is being invested through the Sustrans Places for Everyone programme to enable local authorities and others to deliver active travel infrastructure projects. The Scottish Government budget for 2023-2024 has confirmed record funding for Active Travel of £189.2 million. TS has published revised guidance for local authorities to support they in developing active travel strategies that will identify and prioritise schemes to build local waling and cycling networks. TS is preparing a new Cycling Framework to replace the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and will publish this in early Summer 2023 The Cycling Framework for Active Travel sets out our strategic priorities and shared actions to maximise cycling's contribution in realising the Scottish Government's long term Vision for Active Travel in Scotland.

How the Adaptation Scotland Programme is supporting this outcome:

Adaptation Scotland is currently leading work to identify connections between land use, management and ownership and climate adaptation. Learning from this work will support integration of adaptation into local planning, investment, community wealth building, and placemaking decisions.



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