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Scotland’s special habitats

Scotland has a diverse range of habitats that support a number of invertebrate species. By protecting and conserving these habitats we will help to halt extinctions and ensure the long-term survival of many invertebrates in Scotland. 

A diverse range of habitats can be found across Scotland and these support a number of different species of invertebrates, many of which are rare in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. Examples of some of our most important habitats include our boreal forests, freshwater, mountains, peatland and grassland with more information for each listed below.

 

Woodlands

Scotland’s woodlands of Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris), Aspen (Populus tremula) and birch (Betula species) represent the westernmost examples of the boreal forest that stretches across most of northern Europe and extends east across North America and Canada to the Pacific Ocean. The composition of Scottish woodlands is unique in Europe – other major boreal tree species such as larch (Larix species) and spruce (Picea species) don’t naturally occur here, and in turn these woodland conditions have produced an invertebrate fauna unique from all the other boreal woodlands of northern Europe.

 

In places the structure of Scotland’s ancient pine forests is likewise unique. Many large veteran trees stand in open airy woodland. Unlike Scandinavia, where forestry practices have removed larger and older pines, Scotland still has large stands of these ancient pine woodlands. Woodlands with open areas often support several species of moth and butterfly along with the nests of wood ants that need the sun to keep them warm so are typically found in woodland edges or open glades.

 

Scotland’s forests also have high rainfall, making them particularly good for invertebrate species that love damp, decaying deadwood, such as the very rare Pine hoverfly (Blera fallax), the Aspen hoverfly (Hammerschmidtia ferruginea) and several species of long horn beetle.

 

Freshwater

Scotland has some of the most beautiful freshwater rivers and lakes (lochs) in the British Isles.

 

The River Spey is exceptional in the UK, having a naturally dynamic, shifting mosaic of small channels, islands and wetlands along the majority of its length. The Spey flood plain at Insh marshes is the largest transitional mire in the UK and comprises a variety of specialist wetland habitats that are home to many rare invertebrates. The largest intact river confluence in Europe can be found where the River Feshie enters the Spey. This large delta of sand and gravel is an important habitat for many rare and threatened invertebrates, including the Northern silver stiletto-fly (Spiriverpa lunulata).

 

Around a half of the world’s population of Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) are found in Scottish rivers. Freshwater pearl mussels can live for up to 100 years. Most populations are at risk from silting of rivers and a wide range of activities including of course collecting. Action to conserve Scottish populations of these mussels will make a major contribution to the global survival of this species.

 

Ponds provide homes for a number of invertebrates including those that live in the water such as the nymphs of caddisfly and damselfly and those that live in the vegetation growing along the edge of the pond such as hoverflies feeding on the flowers. Our temporary ponds that dry up in the summer support a number of species including Tadpole shrimp (Triops cancriformis) and the rare Pond Mud snail (Omphiscola glabra).

 

Mountains

The mountains of Scotland are important for a range of cold-loving species. Their location further south than other arctic mountains means that they feature a range of climatic conditions within a relatively small area.

 

Rare and endangered invertebrate species such as the Arctic whorl snail (Vertigo modesta) and the money spider Mecynargus paetulus live in these mountains above the tree-line, where they apparently thrive in seemingly severe natural conditions.

 

Peatland

Blanket bog covers over 1 million hectares of Scotland and this represents over 70% of the habitat in the UK, and the majority of blanket bog in north-west Europe.

 

In the lowlands, Scotland has some of the finest examples of raised bogs in Europe. Both blanket bogs and raised bogs support specialist beetles, dragonflies and flies including the Azure hawker dragonfly (Aeshna caerulea), the Bog bush cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) and the Bog dance-fly (Rhamphomyia obscura).

 

Buglife Scotland is currently restoring lowland raised bogs in the Central belt of Scotland on the Slamannan Plateau

 

Grassland

In Scotland, grassland covers about one third of the landscape. Scotland’s grassland includes areas in parks, road verges, farmland (where it may be improved or semi-improved), in brownfield sites or more natural areas that may be highly species-rich e.g. the machair found on the west coast of Scotland. Grassland, especially diverse species-rich areas are incredibly important for our pollinating insects, e.g. the Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) was once found across the UK but today is now restricted to many islands in the west coast of Scotland that support species rich machair.

 

Grasslands are not only important for a range of pollinating insects that forage from the flowers but also for those bugs that feed on the grass itself, such as plant bugs and grasshoppers. Additionally grasslands also support invertebrates such as spiders that feed on other invertebrates, and a range of other wildlife including frogs, small mammals and birds.

 

Buglife Scotland has worked with local authorities across Scotland to transform over-managed amenity grassland into colourful and diverse native wildflower and grassland meadows.

 

Our projects that help Scotland’s special habitats

Buglife Scotland run projects that not only raise awareness of the importance of our varied landscape for invertebrates but that also create and better manage habitat that will ensure the long-term survival of many species in Scotland.

 

Advice on managing Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats for invertebrates such as for mudflats and reedbeds and others are available on our website.

 

Follow Buglife Scotland on Twitter for regular updates on our project work!

 

Buglife Scotland currently send out a monthly newsletter with updates on exciting new stories, events, talks and volunteering opportunities in Scotland. E-mail scotland@buglife.org.uk to be added to the mailing list.

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