Will I ever get to see an otter? It’s near the top of my list of wildlife I want to see and I keep hoping. Problem is being in the right place at the right time – I’m only ever in the right place at the wrong time. I saw otter footprints on Tiree and last week I was at the otter viewing platform at the RSPB’s Wood of Cree reserve in Galloway – as the signs say, it’s a good place to see them. The information sign also said that otter populations are on the rise thanks to new laws and efforts which are cleaning up our rivers and seas. Good news. That is the first step in helping wildlife adapt to the impacts of climate change – reduce the pressure on them from things not linked to the climate, e.g. pollution or habitat loss. If we do that, populations can increase, but they also need quality habitat in the right place.
Even though I didn’t see an otter, the Wood of Cree is a wonderful place to visit and part of the bigger Cree Valley Community Woodland Project. It’s easy to see why otters thrive there. I cycled down through the mix of river, wetland, woodland and farmland habitats on the Sustrans National Cycle Route 7 – a beautiful journey through what is classed as Western Atlantic Oak Woodland. The RSPB bought land to extend the Wood of Cree in 2005 and plant more trees but you might think that otters don’t live up trees so where is the link?
Conservation at the scale of whole river valleys or whole mountain ranges is also important for helping wildlife to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the future. This landscape-scale conservation isn’t about increasing the size of just one habitat, it’s about; making space for natural processes, improving increasing the size of all habitats over a wider area and joining up isolated habitats. This landscape-scale approach is an important tool in preparing wildlife for a changing climate. It can increase wildlife populations and make them robust and resilient, and it provides space for them to spread out as temperatures shift.
By working together, like we are in the Cree Valley, we can create bigger and better habitats which are fit for the future and able to prepare individual species, like otters, for life in a changing climate.