Farmland is essential for the survival of a third of Scotland’s vulnerable wildlife, and more than half of its bird species, according to a report released this week by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Commenting on the report, deputy environment minister Rhona Brankin, said the Scottish Executive will provide funding to assist with the survival of vulnerable wildlife on farmland through the implementation of Land Management Contracts under the new Scotland Rural Development Programme for 2007/13.
“We have set out proposals to implement Land Management Contracts in ways that meet the variety of needs and priorities of different areas of rural Scotland,” Ms Brankin said.
“Measures will be available both to enhance our most valued wildlife and landscapes and to support viable rural businesses and communities which themselves have a key role to play in managing our diverse natural heritage.”
The report, Forestry, Farming and the Natural Heritage: Towards a More Integrated Future, noted that 28% of species which already have a detailed plan for their conservation needs due to their threatened status, and 58% of bird species with such plans are found across the wider countryside, particularly on farmland.
It also highlighted plants such as the lesser butterfly orchid and the cornflower, and birds such as the corncrake and corn bunting, which depend on specific agricultural management for their survival.
Monitoring on arable farmland in 2002 indicated that half of plant species, a third of insect species and four fifths of bird species have declined.
The report argues that restricting wildlife conservation only to specific areas such as nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, would not ensure that populations survive across the country, and that farming is one of the most important activities in Scotland to support and enhance biodiversity.
The report also emphasises the importance of people on the ground – farmers, foresters, crofters – in delivering a better countryside.