The UK Biodiversity Action Plan sets out the UK Government’s broad strategy for conserving biodiversity. It includes measures to promote biodiversity conservation in woodlands. Within the plan, 391 species are identified as being either in rapid decline or globally threatened, and Species Action Plans have been produced to indicate the key management issues for these priority species. Species Action Plans detail the status, threats and targets for conservation and recovery of priority species, and identify organisations tasked with carrying out the actions.
Local authorities within the UK are committed to the development and implementation of the Local Biodiversity Action Planning process, and to promoting species biodiversity within rural, peri-urban and urban habitats. Planning in urban environments can be complicated, as it requires the need to balance the requirements of an expanding human population with the conservation of a range of species.
There are 135 Species Action Plans linked to woodland where the Forestry Commission is identified as a work partner in the Action Plan. In 61 of these, the actions identified are to provide information through research. The majority are woodland species, ranging from liverworts to mammals, and a few are open-ground species.
The Forestry Commission has a clear commitment to management that supports the conservation of biodiversity, and woodland biodiversity in particular. The Forestry Commission-funded research programme on Species Action Plans is dedicated to understanding the role and impact of management on priority woodland species. The priority Species Action Plan research programme, in collaboration with partners, guides and promotes research to support the Forestry Commission’s commitment to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
The programme focuses on the following mammals, some of which may be found in urban environments:
- Red squirrel (rural towns – mainly in Scotland)
- Bats (eight species, two or three of which may occur in towns and cities)
- Water vole (peri-urban environment).
Approaches to increasing diversity and mammals within urban and peri-urban environments are complex, and involve detailed planning. One example highlighted below is the water vole.
There are still viable populations of water vole within urban areas, often restricted to patches of undeveloped land. These populations require careful management of the metapopulation, and of the factors affecting their habitat and dispersal opportunities. Such strategies require an integrated approach to planning in terms of water quality and routing, and the siting and size of developments.
The planning and establishment of suitably located and carefully designed Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems has the potential to increase the availability of suitable wetland habitats for a variety of wildlife, including water voles, in urban areas. Canals in urban and peri-urban areas can play an important role in providing habitats and dispersal routes for aquatic mammals.
Management of roe deer in peri-urban Scotland
Peri-urban areas are, by definition, transitional, blurring the divide between urban and rural areas. They consist of those areas around settlements characterised by a mosaic of mixed land uses, often including housing, transport infrastructure, industry, agriculture, forestry and natural areas. These areas are sites of significant interactions (or interfaces) between people, and between people and their environment. Demands for increased housing provision and the planting of new woodland around existing urban areas (for example the Forestry Commission’s Woodlands In and Around Town initiative have greatly expanded the area of peri-urban land.
One interaction of significant contemporary concern in peri-urban areas is that between people and deer. Deer have long had an impact on interests in rural areas (forestry, agriculture, etc.), and legislation and institutions have developed to manage these. The expansion of peri-urban areas has increased the actual and potential volume and range of impacts of deer, including road traffic accidents, garden and horticultural damage, and the potential transmission of zoonotic diseases (such as Lyme disease). Concerns have also heightened over the welfare of deer increasingly exposed to risks from road traffic and antisocial behaviour/acts of cruelty. The established legislation, institutions and processes are not necessarily appropriate in peri-urban areas, and may not have the legitimacy they hold in rural areas (e.g. lethal control).
What is often overlooked in this debate is the increased opportunity for positive interaction between people and deer presented by the expansion of peri-urban areas, and its capacity to offset any negative impacts. People often enjoy seeing deer around their homes and community. As highly mobile animals, deer may provide as-yet unrecognised ecological services through using connections between patches of habitat in a fragmented landscape (particularly useful in a peri-urban mosaic).
Through desk-based analysis and primary social research, this research aims to clarify the range and scale of interactions between people and roe deer in peri-urban areas. In consultation with stakeholders, the project will develop principles and actions by which to mitigate and/or resolve existing and potential problems caused by these interactions. Key to this project is the recognition that the issues relating to deer and people in peri-urban Scotland are not caused only by the increasing presence of deer, and that additional management strategies exist beyond simply reducing their presence.
Forest Research has developed Habitats and Rare Priority Protected Species (HARPPS), a database-driven decision support system for managing rare and priority species and habitats. This system will contain ecological information about several mammal species found in urban environments.
Mayle, B.A. (1994). Roe Deer Biology and Management. Bulletin 105. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.