Site-level Resilience Planning for Natura 2000 woodlands in Scotland

18:00 Tuesday 28 May




Duncan Stone (United Kingdom) 1; Chris Donald (United Kingdom) 1; Christiane Valluri-Nitsch (United Kingdom) 1

1 - Scottish Natural Heritage

Climate change and novel pests and pathogens are already creating novel environmental conditions for woodlands, and this is likely to increase in the long term. Since woodland processes are slow and conservation value is strongly associated with older trees, woodland conservation has to take account of these long term changes. In other words, our choices today are very important for ensuring the provision of 200 year-old trees in 200 years’ time.

While we expect and need to plan for perhaps profound environmental changes, we are uncertain over the nature and timing of future changes – for example, we expect novel serious tree pathogens over the next 100 years, but we can’t predict where, when or what species might be affected. This means that it is hard to be certain that any management approach will necessary lead to the results we seek – the continued viability, distinctiveness and richness of the woodland type in question. A second challenge is ensure that evidence and knowledge actually leads to management changes, a conservation challenge with a patchy record of success in Scotland. Our objective in this project is to develop actions that can provide resilience at a site-level for Scotland’s Natura woodlands, using our uncertainty about future threats to develop a non-prescriptive approach to management which will be more acceptable to woodland managers.

To achieve this objective, we firstly break down our uncertainty about future environmental conditions as far as we can into specific threats to the system-critical elements of the woodlands and from that develop a set of actions that anticipate and prepare for those threats. Secondly, taking that set of actions, we build them into a weighted menu of options for land managers, with the higher-certainty threats having the highest weight. This non-prescriptive menu system gives us two key advantages – it makes the implementation of resilience actions more likely (because managers are more likely to find a combination of actions acceptable to them) and it should give a diverse range of management approaches to help us avoid creating a new vulnerability – every site prepared in the same way for an uncertain future.

Finally we present an example of this non-prescriptive resilience action menu for Scotland’s iconic Caledonian pinewood, with an assessment of the viability of this approach from the viewpoint of pinewood managers.