“The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme is a competitive scheme that promotes land management practices which protect and enhance Scotland’s natural heritage, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change” (www.ruralpayments.org. AECS). It is part of “The Scottish Rural Development Program (SRDP) 2014 to 2020” which includes a number of specific options that can be used to support the biodiversity value of your ground.
The Habitat Mosaic Management option is one of many options that can be applied for in this scheme. It is a good flexible option with a reasonable payment rate of £104.63 per Ha per yr. The option has been recently revised (Jan 16) with clarification details added and is available throughout Scotland.
It aims to maintain and improve areas of farmland that are made up of a patchwork or mosaic of traditional semi-natural habitats that need to be managed as a single unit usually because there are no separating fences. Habitat mosaics may include wetland, wet grassland, species-rich grassland, tall-herb communities, scrub, heathland and scattered pockets of woodland or wood pasture amongst others (but please note this does not include improved grassland). These habitat types often support a range of important wildlife but in order to apply for the scheme your management must be targeted at a single species. This means there must be a biodiversity reason to manage the land, reasons or targets would include such things as the presence of Black Grouse or Marsh Fritillary Butterfly. The flexibility of this option ensures that the best conditions possible can be offered to support the species as well as fit in with current livestock management on the unit.
Grazing management is often important to maintain the best conditions of your target species so the management of the area must be outlined in a grazing plan for which a template is provided on the website. The grazing can be flexible but it must be aimed at the species being supported and there must be evidence that the species occurs within that area.
The payment rate for Habitat Mosaic Management (£104.63/ha/yr) can be quite attractive if you have the right conditions, especially as this payment can be claimed on rough ground as well as inbye. However If you wish to include land above the hill dyke in your application you should explain why you consider this land to be habitat mosaic rather than moorland. You should provide at least a Phase 1 habitat map of the area, including species lists and target notes, showing the extent of the different habitats, Land previously managed as moorland should continue to be managed as moorland so don’t expect to include a grouse moor in this option even if it does support Black Grouse!
Further details and information on this option can be found at www.ruralpayments.org website and note that the deadline for 2016 applications is 31st March 2016.
Helen Bibby, Conservation Consultant, SAC Consulting
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