New conservation initiative kicks off in Inner Hebrides and Argyll


An innovative and ambitious four-year-long conservation programme has launched in the Inner Hebrides and Argyll.

Species on the Edge is a bold new partnership programme from NatureScot and seven conservation charities that is dedicated to improving the fortunes of 37 threatened and vulnerable species found along Scotland's coast and islands.

For the duration of the four-year-long programme, Species on the Edge will be active in seven areas across Scotland: Shetland; the North Coast; the East Coast; the Outer Hebrides; Orkney; Solway; and the Inner Hebrides and Argyll.

The Inner Hebrides and Argyll is the largest of the Species on the Edge project areas, stretching from Skye in the north, out westwards to Tiree, and south to the Mull of Kintyre.

Species on the Edge has a team of four project officers in the area. Together they are delivering activity to conserve 19 vulnerable species in the area, including Great Yellow Bumblebee, Medicinal Leech, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, four species of bat and four species of burnet moth.

Great Yellow Bumblebee is one of the key species that the new programme will support (Frode Ødegaard).

Much of the Inner Hebrides and Argyll is home to species that have disappeared from elsewhere in Scotland and it is thanks to generations of crofters, using low-intensity agricultural practices, that many of Scotland's threatened species continue to survive here. A core aspect of Species on the Edge activity in this area is to reinforce the value of High Nature Value (HNV) farming and to work closely with local land managers and crofting communities.

Species on the Edge People Engagement Coordinator, Sarah Duly, said: “People are fundamental to the success of the Species on the Edge programme and the wider effort to protect our vulnerable species. We are offering a range of training and engagement opportunities for people to get involved in practical conservation, citizen science, and creative events and projects. We'll be listening to and working alongside our local communities to enable more people to connect with their natural heritage."

Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has four priority species Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Daubenton's Bat and Brown Long-eared Bat) in the programme. To date there is very little information about bat populations in the north and west of Scotland, so a large part of BCT's work will be to carry out extensive monitoring to help understand how bat populations are faring throughout the area. BCT has been working with local community groups to raise awareness of bats and how to protect them and are offering training opportunities to people with an interest in helping to survey bats near them.

Greenland White-fronted Goose is one of the birds that the Species on the Edge programme aims to help (John Nadin).

Meanwhile, Buglife has three priority species in the Argyll and Inner Hebrides project area: Short-necked Oil Beetle, Medicinal Leech and Northern Colletes mining bee. Once found only on Coll, increased awareness and surveying has resulted in Short-necked Oil Beetle populations being discovered all over the Hebrides, with the beetle now also found on Barra, Islay, Tiree and Uist. Short-necked Oil Beetles are vulnerable to extinction due to their small, scattered populations but over the next four years, Species on the Edge will be talking to landowners about how they can manage their land to provide the right conditions for the Short-necked Oil Beetle and other invertebrate species.

With only two known populations of Medicinal Leech in Scotland, Buglife is leading crucial work to support the resilience of existing populations, working with the Kildalton Estate on Islay to secure habitat management for the lochan where the leeches are found and with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to establish a captive breeding programme with a view to introducing them to other lochs on Islay.

The RSPB has a number of priority species included in the programme. As well as waders such as lapwing and curlew, others include Little Tern and Greenland White-fronted Goose. RSPB is also leading work on Coll and Tiree to monitor populations of Great Yellow Bumblebee.

The west coast of Scotland and the Inner Hebrides are home to several rare moths including Slender Scotch Burnet, New Forest Burnet, Transparent Burnet and Talisker Burnet. Conservation work, led by Butterfly Conservation, will focus on removing invasive species and working with landowners to achieve levels of grazing beneficial to the moths. Surveys so far this season have shown the presence of the burnet moths on Mull, Ulva, Gometra, Skye, Eigg, and mainland Argyll.

Find out more at the Species on the Edge website or and follow along on Twitter @SpeciesEdge and on Facebook @SpeciesontheEdge.