A project to create and enhance freshwater habitats across the Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership area in Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire is a recipient of the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund.

Garnock Freshwater Habitats Project has been awarded £21,518 to improve important habitat at two sites in the Garnock Connections Landscape Project area. The first will make RSPB Lochwinnoch Reserve an even more attractive place for wading birds and wildfowl by creating a network of shallow scrapes with muddy edges, where they can feed and roost, adding new features to the existing wetland.

The second site is the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Shewalton Sandpits Reserve, where woodland creation and management will help build resilience against river erosion and habitat loss, as flooding becomes a more likely consequence of climate change.

Coppicing and dense planting of native tree species will build up a root system that will help to strengthen the riverbank, providing a nature-based solution to flooding, while also helping wildlife. Investment in a ‘green recovery’ is understood to be the most cost-effective way of making our communities and our nature sustainable and more resilient, while driving inclusive economic development.

Alyson Hunter, Project Manager, Garnock Connections, said: “Securing this grant through NatureScot’s Nature Restoration Fund has been instrumental in being able to carry out significant habitat enhancement works at two locally important and valued nature reserves.

“Not only will this work improve biodiversity by attracting a wider variety of species, it will also improve access to nature for those hoping to catch a glimpse of visiting wildlife as the new wetlands are a lot closer to the visitor centre at RSPB Lochwinnoch.

“Works being carried out at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Shewalton Sandpits Reserve will play an important part in increasing flood resilience in the local area, as well as enhancing biodiversity by planting 1000s of native trees, such as locally sourced and grown aspen. We are delighted that the work will provide opportunities for the local community to get involved in improving a much-loved reserve by helping to plant the trees, leave a legacy for the future in their local wildlife reserve in Irvine.”

The Nature Restoration Fund supports a range of urban, rural, marine and coastal focused projects to address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. The Nature Restoration Fund specifically encourages applicants with projects to increase the biodiversity and environmental value of land and sea, with a focus on habitats and species, and supporting green skills, training and jobs where possible. Through this approach, successful projects will contribute to the green recovery as we emerge from Covid-19 and work towards a nature rich future.

Garnock Freshwater Habitats Project is one of 54 successful projects across Scotland to share the additional £5million committed in this round of the Nature Restoration Fund. The projects will take practical steps to improve natural habitats, safeguard plant and animal species and improve biodiversity.

The 2021 Nature Restoration Fund added to the many millions of pounds of Scottish Government funding delivered through the Biodiversity Challenge Fund, Scottish Rural Development Programme and other sources to support biodiversity and help to deliver Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy.

Biodiversity Minister, Lorna Slater, said: “Too much of Scotland’s natural environment is degraded after years of over-exploitation, but this Government is committed to restoring nature and our wildlife. The Nature Restoration Fund will play a big role in delivering these aspirations, and the projects we are funding today are just the beginning.

“The Fund kick starts a new approach, supporting longer-term, larger, landscape-scale projects across Scotland – on land and at sea – that address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

“Over this parliament we will invest at least £65 million through the fund, delivering real change that people and nature will benefit from across the whole country.”

NatureScot Chief Executive, Francesca Osowska, said: “COP26 in Glasgow has driven home the urgency of the situation we are all facing. But there is hope. By restoring nature, protecting and enhancing habitats and safeguarding marine life we can look forward to a nature-positive future.

“Scotland is taking action now to meet the huge challenges and pressures that nature is facing and its projects like these that will make the difference and set us on the road to recovery.

“Climate change needs nature-based solutions, not only to help us reach net zero by 2045 but to create a healthier, more resilient Scotland.
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