Scotland’s reputed natural beauty is growing increasingly fragmented, leading to a decline of complex and vibrant wildlife systems. This has created calls for large-scale restoration projects across the country with local actions becoming increasingly important.
Climate change has contributed to ecological decline, yet over-maintenance of natural spaces such as parks has also contributed to a fragmented natural state. This has left behind tiny and unconnected habitats which prevent wildlife from moving across the country, which is essential for biodiversity. This reduced biodiversity is devastating for wildlife populations as it increases their vulnerability to diseases and pests. The risk of extinction is severe from this vulnerability and, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) predicted 40-70% of species face extinction if the absence of wildlife corridors continues.
Local Ranger, Julia Duncan, notes the importance of tackling this issue and reminds us that change can begin within our own gardens.
Reducing overly maintained gardens and simply refraining from mowing a lawn can bring huge benefits through encouraging invertebrates and acting as nature reserves. The ‘B-lines’ initiative notes that the creation of insect wildlife corridors and ‘stepping stones’ are vital in encouraging bee and butterfly populations. Julia also highlights that with a collective effort, these would form important links for wildlife and help reduce the issue of fragmented habitats. Although it may seem too small a piece of land to make a difference, with a collective effort it can make a huge difference.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust also offer straightforward instructions for building wildlife “homes” in gardens. Such activities are vital for rekindling wildlife populations, as well as doubling up as family fun.
Bug hotels and hedgehog homes may be built out of easily accessible materials, such as sticks and strings. These may act as nesting homes, such as for bees in the spring and hedgehogs in the winter, and act as secure spaces for animals such as hedgehogs to rear their young.
Creating hedgehog holes are also a useful way of encouraging wildlife in gardens. The Scottish Wildlife Trust encourage cutting a small hole in a garden fence, to enable hedgehogs to pass through at night. By encouraging neighbours to do the same, then a straightforward and effective wildlife corridor can be created.
Encouraging insect and hedgehog populations within gardens act as essential wildlife corridors and help revive declining populations. They may also help introduce natural predators, thereby reducing the use of pesticides which are devastating upon delicate eco-systems.
Amidst doom and gloom reports of declining Scottish wilderness and its fragmentation, it can be easy to lose hope and questions if actions at the local level are influential. Yet we should remember that individually “re-wilding” our own gardens can work as part of a collaborative effort in sparking national change.
Information on how to build a bug hotel may be found at: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/resource/build-an-insect-hotel/