South Ayrshire’s nature sites are under threat

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South Ayrshire has an abundance of protected beauty spots – but new analysis has revealed that 22 of them are under threat.

A study of hundreds of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) across Scotland has found one in three is in an unsatisfactory condition.

In South Ayrshire there are 31 SSSIs with a total of 61 important features within them.

Of these features, 38 per cent were found to be in an unfavourable condition.

SSSI features across the region to be found in an unfavourable condition include:

· Martnaham Loch and Wood

· Girvan to Ballantrae Coast Section (Ordovician Igneous)

· Ballantrae Shingle Beach

· Feoch Meadows (Lowland neutral grassland)

Wildlife and nature charities have branded the findings as “shocking” and have called for the protection and restoration of our natural environment to be made a top priority.

Read more: THE THREAT TO THE UK’S PRECIOUS NATURAL WONDERS

Paul de Zylva, of Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s shocking that our top wildlife sites are in such poor condition.

“The failure to protect and restore these vital nature havens has been going on for far too long.”

“If we can’t even protect the jewels in the crown, it’s little wonder that nature is in such poor shape.”

Kate Jennings, the RSPB’s head of site conservation policy, added: “The current state of SSSIs is shocking.

“Many have not been assessed for years so the actual picture may in fact be worse.

“If our governments are serious about tackling the climate and nature emergencies we need a huge step change in action, and it needs to happen now.”

However, Scottish Natural Heritage, the body that determines whether a site or feature is of special scientific interest, has stressed that many features assessed as unfavourable are showing signs of improvement.

It has recently announced an extra £2 million of Scottish Government funding to boost biodiversity.

SSSIs are protected areas for nature conservation.

Most are in private ownership, as part of estates, forests or farms.

They are chosen by Scottish Natural Heritage because they are home to rare plant or animal species or important geographical features. A site can have more than one feature of interest.

A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “It’s encouraging that when we include those features that are assessed as unfavourable but on the road to recovery, then 82 per cent of features on Sites of Special Scientific Interest across Scotland are either doing well or projected to improve.

“To secure a nature-rich future for Scotland we must continue to address the significant challenges that nature faces – including invasive species, overgrazing and climate change – and we are working closely with partners, farmers and landowners to help them manage sites in a way that tackles these issues.”