SOME NATURE CONSERVATION ISSUES IN ANGUS
1) For many decades there has been a steady decline in vascular plant species and also other groups. In one 10km square area in Angus (that includes Arbroath) about 350 taxa have not been reported for many years. Of this total it is likely that a portion of those reported species will be re-found but possibly up to 200 species of vascular plants (including many native species) will have been lost from this area of the county. One species that has decreased rapidly over the past 20 years is the Sea Pea (Lathyrus japonicus) which is Nationally Scarce (see further details on separate page). Bryophyte diversity also appears to have decreased in Angus and it is likely that other groups (invertebrates and amphibians) have also decreased. Although there have been some significant losses of species from upland areas of Angus it is in the lowlands where the greatest losses have occurred, particularly during the past 30 years.
2) There has been a significant increase in non-native invasive plant species such as Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). This species is now locally abundant along parts of the Lunan valley.
3) There has been a significant increase in non-native arable plants. For example, Oil seed-rape is growing in abundance along parts of the cliffs of Angus. For example, just north of Rickle Craig is a large colony of Oil-seed Rape (Brassica napus) growing in close proximity to a number of coastal rarities such as Nottingham Catchfly (Silene nutans) and Wild Liquorice (Astragalus glycophyllos).
4) Some parts of the Angus coast are overgrazed while other parts are possibly undergrazed. Overgrazing and trampling has resulted in erosion along parts of the coast of Angus leading to a loss of species and habitats. An example, is an area of coastline just south of Ethie Haven which is now heavily trampled and grazed by Soay sheep. The original intention about having some grazing in the area was good but the situation has become worse in recent years.
5) There are few buffer zones along the coast of Angus which means that nutrient run-off (from fertilizer) is real. This is leading to adverse changes in the floristic composition along the cliffs. The increase in tall grasses and tall ruderals such as False-oat grass, Nettle and Creeping thistle is a result of this run-off and it is proving to be detrimental to many coastal species. Furthermore species that were once sparse in the county such as Oil-seed Rape (Brassica napus) is now locally abundant along parts of the superb Angus coastal cliffs.
6) Herb-rich road verges have become a rarity in Angus and are only rarely encountered on upland fringes. Road verges are mown during the spring time or early summer and the plants cannot flower or set seed. Furthermore some verges are sprayed with herbicides.
7) Eutrophication is evident in many small ponds and larger lochs. For example, the aquatic flora of Balgavies and Rescobie Lochs have diminished significantly. In Rescobie Loch the most abundant aquatic species is Canadian pondweed (Elodea canadensis), which is not even native in Angus! Furthermore the cover/density of this aquatic is at least 1,000,000 times greater than all of the native aquatic species combined.
8) There are only a few relic natural native woodlands left in Angus and they cover less than 1 % of the total area of the county. Much of the relic woodland vegetation that remains is not in good condition and there is no evidence of any significant growth of woodland in Angus. Considering as much as 50% of the county may have been once wooded it is an infamy that this habitat has been largely neglected. These woodlands would have harboured a rich and diverse wildlife. Probably the single richest habitat in the county (containing hundreds of species of vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens and fungi and the home of many invertebrates, birds and mammals). Unlike neighbouring Perthshire, Angus certainly cannot boast about being a “big tree country”.
9) Developments, such as new housing estates, wind farms, golf courses and retail outlets are further likely to increase impacts on habitats, plants and other species.
The above ecological and environmental concerns are not merely confined to Angus but can be found in other counties of Scotland as well.