Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer, is back with a new blog on the SRDP.

Hotspots and Notspots

There are management options for a range of species including corn bunting. Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com).

In my previous blog post I discussed how Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife is a management option in the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SDRP) which is good for lapwings. There are many other options that can help some of our most iconic and vulnerable birds too, such as corncrake, corn bunting and black grouse.  How we ensure that the right options are taken up within the areas of Scotland where these bird species actually are – the need for targeting – has been filling some of my time these past few weeks.

In the previous SRDP some options, such as Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife, proved very popular with farmers and there was high uptake of those options across the country. But despite farmers meeting the eligibility criteria, these options weren’t always adopted in the best places to have maximum impact and used to benefit the species they were designed to help. For example, some lovely wet grassland habitat was created and managed but not always within key areas for lapwing.

This time around we have been working with Government to target options to where they are really needed. So Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife should be geographically targeted to where there are concentrations of wading birds or other target wildlife likely to use the habitat. If we can get these hotspots right it will mean scarce cash will be used much more effectively and we will get more ‘bang for our buck’.  The next scheme needs to make sure that options are selected in the right places to have best effect.

Government is also developing targeting maps to target options designed for other environmental benefit, e.g. water quality improvement, woodland planting, flood management, and greenhouse gas reduction. Overlay all these maps and as well as showing hotspots, it should indicate ‘notspots’ – locations where options shouldn’t be placed. A good example of a notspot is illustrated once again by our lapwing. A farmer might consider a part of a field unproductive and difficult to manage, and therefore a good place to plant some trees through the SRDP Forestry Grants scheme. But that field might be an ideal location for lapwings and other waders to breed. Identifying that area as a notspot for tree planting, and finding other more suitable areas on the farm, could help to avoid environmental harm and ensure the SRDP budget is spent in the best way possible.