Falkirk’s nature spots in poor condition – but recovering

Many beauty spots within the Falkirk district are under threat, new analysis shows.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 2:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 12:11 pm

Almost three quarters of the natural features found within the region’s Sites of Specific Interest (SSSIs) are in a poor state, with official inspections finding unsatisfactory conditions.

The figures show Falkirk fares second worst of all Scottish council areas, in terms of the proportion of SSSI inspections finding poor conditions.

Leading environmental campaigners fear across the UK the situation could be even worse with many SSSIs not having been assessed for years, and wildlife charities have branded the findings “shocking”.

The Avon Gorge was found to be unfavourable.
The Avon Gorge was found to be unfavourable.

SSSIs are protected areas for nature conservation.

They are chosen because they are home to rare plant or animal species or important geographical features, covering anything from breeding grounds to peatland.

Falkirk district has seven SSSIs with some having multiple important features.

Eight of the district’s 11 important features at such sites were in ‘unfavourable’ conditions at their latest assessment, analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit found.

However, of those eight considered ‘unfavourable’, the data shows that five of those are improving.

Paul de Zylva, of Friends of the Earth, said it was “shocking that our top wildlife sites are in such poor condition”.

He said: “If we can’t even protect the jewels in the crown, it’s little wonder that UK nature is in such poor shape.

“The new government must make the protection and restoration of our natural environment a top priority.”

Kate Jennings, head of site conservation policy at the RSPB, added: “The current state of SSSIs across the four countries of the UK is shocking.

“Many have not been assessed for years so the actual picture may in fact be worse.

“If our governments are serious about tackling the climate and nature emergencies we need a huge step change in action, and it needs to happen now.”

Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trust’s director of campaigns and policy, said bodies which monitor the condition of sites, had been starved of funding.

She called for them to get a substantial cash injection “to enable them to carry out their functions effectively and to ensure our protected sites are restored and enhanced”.

Across Scotland, 32 per cent of the assessed features were found in an unfavourable condition.

Negative pressures on sites include climate change, over/under grazing and invasive species.

However Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said many of these features were either recovering or were projected to recover.

And this appears to be the case across the Falkirk district, where the figures show five of the eight features found to be unfavourable are improving.

An SNH spokesman said: “It’s encouraging that when we include those features that are assessed as unfavourable but on the road to recovery, then 82 per cent of features on Sites of Special Scientific Interest across Scotland are either doing well or projected to improve.

“To secure a nature-rich future for Scotland we must continue to address the significant challenges that nature faces - including invasive species, overgrazing and climate change - and we are working closely with partners, farmers and landowners to help them manage sites in a way that tackles these issues.”

She added an extra £2 million of Scottish Government funding had recently been announced to boost biodiversity.

The even SSSIs within the Falkirk Council district include Avon Gorge, Denny Muir, Carron Glen, Howierig Muir, Carron Dams, Darnrig Moss and Bo’mains Meadow.