Brownfield sites provide important habitats for many rare and endangered species including invertebrates, birds, reptiles, plants and lichens. The countryside no longer provides the abundance or variety of habitats that these species need, as intensive farming has made habitat mosaics increasingly hard to find. While nature reserves are often small and isolated, brownfield sites tend to cluster around ex-industrial areas and estuaries. These provide a sizeable mosaic of habitats which collectively support populations of species which are unable to survive in the long-term on small reserves due to issues with population size and inbreeding.
The decline of heavy industry in Scotland has resulted in large areas of vacant and derelict land. The economic downturn has further contributed to this problem, as the planned development of many of these brownfield sites has stalled. Through the National Planning Framework, the Scottish Government has expressed a desire to bring vacant and derelict land back into productive use, for housing, for economic purposes and to create attractive environments. As a result, there is potential for the NPF vision to conflict with the conservation of open mosaic habitats (OMH) on previously developed land as set out in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP).
To promote the conservation of open mosaic habitats on previously developed land, Buglife conducted a desk study of 1,248 sites listed as vacant and derelict on the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Register 2009.
324 sites were identified as having features indicative of an UKBAP open mosaic habitat. Information regarding these sites was collated on an excel spread sheet and the boundaries of these sites were digitised and made available on an ArcGIS Shapefile.
This project has helped to identify land on the Vacant and Derelict Land register which is of importance for biodiversity conservation. If properly managed, these sites can not only deliver suitable habitats for many species, but can also transform themselves into wild city spaces full of wildflowers that will attract pollinators and other animals.
Buglife has used the information gathered in this study to encourage the use of brownfield sites as open greenspaces for local people. There is great potential to make these sites more accessible, thus reducing the number of areas deficient in accessible open space and contributing to the delivery of urban green networks.
The successful completion of this CSGN Development Fund project has provided a solid start to what will be a pioneering project in Scotland. The information gathered will help the regeneration sector in a number of ways. An expansion of current knowledge of key species, new data on important habitat factors, dispersal ability and minimum viable areas for population will create a better understanding of how to:
survey brownfield sites in Scotland for their key species and groupsmitigate against the impacts of site redevelopmentcreate new habitats and incorporate existing habitats into developmentsimprove existing management regimes to benefit wildlifedeliver targets for UKBAP priority species.
With further funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, Buglife completed an assessment of all sites on the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Register. This assessment was conducted in accordance with the remote assessment approach for OMH priority sites and a report will be written detailing the methodology used.
A number of sites were identified as having features indicative of an UKBAP open mosaic habitat. Information on these sites will be made available via Scotland's Greenspace Map and recommendations for future work will be made.
This project has provided the foundation for a wider project on brownfield biodiversity. The next step is to ground-truth the desk study by visiting the sites identified as of potential interest.
To encourage the conservation of open mosaic habitats on previously developed land, Buglife have created guidance for planners on the importance of brownfield sites for biodiversity.
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