Urban Ecology in Scotland

Undertaking development or redevelopment activities within a city most certainly does not preclude the need for thorough ecology surveys and assessment. Here in Glasgow and the central belt we are fortunate to live and work amongst a plethora of wildlife, and we are regularly surprised by the diversity of habitats and species that occur in the projects with which we are involved.

The superb red and blond sandstone architecture of Victorian Glasgow has created ideal breeding sites for Swifts, which nest in roof cavities reached through gaps under eaves. Here too, a surprising number of bat roosts occur and bat surveys around dusk can result in our bat surveyors witnessing many bats emerging to forage among the parks and leafy streets, or returning at dawn. Building re-development often requires Swift surveys and/or bat surveys to assess whether proposed changes to the structure of the building are likely to result in adverse impacts. Redevelopment of such buildings also offers opportunities for ecological enhancement through the inclusion of Swift breeding boxes or bat lofts/boxes (these can be applied to new builds too).

Despite the abundance of industry and development in these areas, the river systems that flow through the central belt towns and cities are still surprisingly rich in wildlife, and with space at a premium many building developments can occur right up to the banks. Consequently, Otter surveys are often required; yes, you really can see urban Otters in the middle of cities! These watercourses also support a plethora of other species too including Salmon, Kingfishers, Dippers and Goosanders.

The beautiful sandstone architecture of Victorian Glasgow is home to many species including bats and swifts

The beautiful sandstone architecture of Victorian Glasgow is home to many species including bats and swifts

One of the most fascinating discoveries in recent British mammal natural history is the presence of terrestrial Water Voles on the outskirts of Glasgow. Originally this was thought to be unique to this single isolated population, but further Water Vole surveys have found that this unusual behaviour is far more common than originally thought and they can be found at many sites east of Glasgow (as well as in Continental Europe). It pays to bear this in mind when considering development in this region!

Lastly, our brownfield sites (a Section 41 (of the NERC Act) priority habitat); Glasgow was once a hub of industrial activity when the Clyde rang out with the sound of riveting. Nowadays human activity at many of these industrial sites has faded away and nature has started to recolonise. We have undertaken many Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys (EP1HS) of such locations and often found a remarkably rich assemblage of flora and fauna. Bird surveys are often necessary and some species specialise in breeding in these habitats. The BTO even has an Urban Ecology project underway which is looking to recognise the value of such sites for wildlife. The initial habitat surveys can occasionally lead on to further requirements for protected species surveys (such as Badger surveys and Great Crested Newt surveys; the area is a particular stronghold for Great Crested Newts) and assessment. 

The central belt towns and cities have a surprising amount of green space

The central belt towns and cities have a surprising amount of green space

So, if you’re thinking of undertaking any development in urban areas it pays to consider the ecology of the site carefully right from the outset.

We have considerable experience of preliminary ecological appraisals, Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys (EP1HS) as well as bat and Swift surveys and implementing appropriate mitigation; please contact Dan Brown in our Glasgow office should you require any ecological support in this region.