Scotland’s Nature Network

02 Dec 2020

A blog from Charles Nathan, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland and Vice-Convener of LINK’s Planning Group.

One of the best ways to deliver transformational change is not only powerful, it can be easily delivered. A Scottish Nature Network helps focus effort and resources toward improving the ecological health of Scotland’s natural assets, including everything from vast landscape scale interventions, like restoring or planting woodland, to local projects such as enhancing or creating new city parks and community green spaces. Taking a strategic approach like this would result in a healthy and vibrant nature rich world that offers a wealth of benefits to society, not least in helping tackle the climate and nature emergency. This is explored in Scottish Environment LINK’s short film.

The rationale for a Nature Network is strengthened by Scotland’s natural assets. Scottish Government has committed to a target of Net-Zero emissions by 2045 – 5 years earlier than the rest of the UK – and are able to do so because of the wealth of its surroundings, such as vast peatlands and native woodlands, which capture and store carbon. However, to achieve these targets, changes to how we strategically plan, build on and manage land across Scotland, from hill-top to city park are needed. A Scottish Nature Network provides this, giving a common purpose to both rural and urban communities to enable them to enhance and reconnect nature by targeting where best to collectively take action and invest.

Peatland restoration and ambitious tree planting targets are the most familiar examples that demonstrate the power of nature to help society tackle the climate emergency, however many other natural habitats and systems, if in a healthy functioning state, can provide equally important benefits. The Scottish Nature Network identifies the locations and the measures that are needed to achieve healthy, resilient natural habitats that in turn help our society and economy. For example, Scotland faces a trend of warmer and wetter winters which are already increasing the risk of floods. These risks can partly be managed by recreating, altering or protecting parts of rivers. Using nature manages and reduces the impact of flooding. These include planting woodland on floodplains, changing the soil characteristics of adjacent fields or blocking streams in a way that mimics fallen trees and branches that all slow the flow of the water and decrease the effects of flooding.

Having the Network allows stakeholders to collaborate and identify the opportunities to contribute to the Network in their area, drawing together communities right across rural and urban areas from farmers and foresters, developers and health boards, key agencies and community enterprises. This approach would help align efforts to help achieve climate targets, restore nature, increase opportunity for, and investment in, green jobs, and help enhance the wellbeing of communities.

Nature is fundamental to human existence, it’s the very fabric upon which we all depend not only for climate regulation, food, timber, clean water and air but also for our personal and collective wellbeing. The natural spaces in our communities provide a space to breathe and reflect, a space for wildlife to exist in addition to the regulatory functions it plays in balancing water and air quality, temperature and noise pollution. But the advantage of a Scottish Nature Network is that it makes the situation better for nature, not just people, by restoring our natural environment and its ecosystems.

Strong government support for and investment in Scotland’s Nature Network is central to a green recovery. A recovery where we can reach climate and biodiversity targets with speed and efficiency, maximising the benefits to nature and climate and creating a positive change to the economic and social activities of our communities. From here on in we will be calling for the adoption of Scotland’s Nature Network.

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