Session 3: Future opportunities presentation and discussion items

Presentation - a view of future opportunities

Roddy Fairley, Programme Manager for Biodiversity, SNH.

Key points of presentation

Black grouse did well until the early 20th century and they have declined from the 1930s onwards, coinciding with the advance of farmland intensification and loss of smaller mixed farms, increasing nitrogen inputs and rates of water run-off etc.

Have we been tackling symptoms not causes?

Should we now seek to adopt a broader approach that brings landscapes into good heart to provide the range of things that black grouse (and caper) need?

Suggested approach:

  • Manage at a large scale not just small areas
  • Maintain the whole fabric of the countryside: create more space for nature and natural processes. For example create more areas of wetland and peatland restoration, less uniform woodland structure, a diversity of silvicultural systems, feathered edges and scrub areas, buffers and set aside on farmland
  • Avoid boom and bust management for any species
  • Take an ecosystems approach and look at processes not just numbers
  • In practical terms – look at relationship between moorlands and forest areas
  • What is the role of fire in woodland ecology?
  • Note importance of the wider land- use strategy for Scotland and taking an ecosystem approach as part of this
  • Develop adaptive management techniques and be responsive to local changes
  • Tough choices and a very focussed approach to species management will be needed to decide on what action is appropriate and realistic; this includes assessing the costs, the benefits and the certainty of achieving them.

A number of strategies and policies are in place to help, e.g. Land Use Strategy, National Ecological Network, Woodlands Expansion Advisory Group, Climate Change Adaptation framework, and the refreshed Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and new SRDP will be important.

Trade offs will be needed. Who is compensated for costs to obtain public or common goods? A market-based approach for ecosystem services (e.g. carbon or water markets) may develop and help here.

The Way Ahead for our Woodland Grouse: discussion.

Facilitator and Summariser: Colin Galbraith, Consultant

Speakers from the afternoon sessions formed a panel. Key points of discussion:

Population monitoring

  • We have lots of activity and spending on black grouse. Can we do better than 2017 for a complete overview of BG numbers?
  • The current BG conservation review aims to get better interim figures and recommend methods for the future. It will be completed in 2012 and should feed into SRDP2
  • Capercaillie core areas approach may be worth trying for BG
  • Focus attention on threatened areas, i.e. southern Scotland and northern England
  • Varied views about how far we already know the position from collating data on currently monitored populations. RSPB has found some new populations recently in the area
  • Capercaillie counts have high confidence limits; consider an increase in the emphasis of lek counts
  • Need better data on BG productivity across the country.

Threats

The main categories are climate change, of which little had been said today, habitat degradation or loss and predators (e.g. crows, foxes, pine marten). Which are key?

  • Varied views about which are the limiting life stages currently, e.g. hatching success, chick, or winter survival etc.
  • Should predator populations also be monitored, eg as indices?
  • Should we bring best practice and knowledge together for black grouse as it has been for capercaillie in the LIFE programme booklet?
  • Could compare responses to management and assess whats doing well and not so well
  • Need to include specific focus on the perspective of landowners and managers in assessing what has or has not worked
  • How to tackle pine marten predation? It’s a complex issue which is being researched at present. CG offered to chair a specific meeting on this issue if required.

Targets for populations

What do we want? - how many, where, what productivity level? Would such targets be useful and how would they be set?

  • Do we want quantitative species targets, or should we focus on enhancing natural processes?
  • Long term target is for viable populations that wouldn't need constant intervention
  • Focus most effort for black grouse on southern Scotland and rotational management of woodland edges? But is there a risk of wasting money in south Scotland if we have such a small remnant population
  • Do we need a strategy for conserving moorland and scrub in the uplands given the importance of these habitats to black grouse?

Delivery

  • Landscape scale management is vital
  • Perhaps BG and Caper should be regarded as an umbrella species whose status indicates that of the ecosystems
  • Collaborative management is hard to achieve in practice, but there may be scope to develop a stronger approach in SRDP 2, including support for advice and management planning
  • Southern Upland Partnership has developed a collaborative approach in the Borders tapping into various funding streams, including renewables mitigation
  • Can we harness private money to drive investment in conservation? Has worked in northern English moors
  • Agreement that further regulation to achieve conservation of BG and Caper is not desirable.

How to ensure co-ordination in future?

  • Species groups for each species should continue
  • For BG the conservation review, and this seminar, should be a basis for renewed effort and agreeing goals.

Finally audience members were challenged to suggest one thing that would make a difference. The first 5 answers volunteered were:

  • licensing control of protected predators
  • more old growth forest
  • actively supplement populations, e.g. caper on Deeside
  • maintain and extend important moorland habitat
  • funding to support 'feet on the ground' practical managers.