Examining the Borders ecosystem

An aerial photo showing work done at Lake Wood.
An aerial photo showing work done at Lake Wood.

Derek Robeson from Tweed Forum was the speaker at our December meeting in Duns. He has been involved in the Land Use Strategy Pilot Scheme to examine the Borders ecosystem and relate it to land management. This and one in Aberdeenshire are the only two such research projects in the UK.

Derek pinpointed the main targets of the government. Habitat restoration comes near the top: stopping the advance of invasive species, woodland planting, moorland management and river restoration to enhance fisheries. In the light of climate change the fear of flooding has led to more investment on flood defences.

Carbon capture by peatland that stores twice as much carbon as forests means removing some of the traditional drains on moorlands. This has been effective on the Yarrow Water using plastic dams.

Pollution and run-off from agricultural land is another issue. This is being remedied on the Eye Water where livestock land has been better protected by fencing and tree planting and hopefully Eyemouth Beach will be awarded a higher status in future.

On a farmland Derek makes a thorough inspection of hedges, watercourses and trees to see if any subsidy schemes are applicable. Buffer zones around crops enable birds to thrive and encourage the vital pollinators – bees and insects to flourish. It is important that these zones are not sprayed. Cost effectiveness of fences or hedges has to be considered. Every boundary is scrutinized. Cooperation with the landowner/tenant farmer is vital.

Funding has been made available to map the Borders extensively using aerial photography (sometimes by drones) and computer technology. The amount of information gleaned has been awesome. Derek made the point that before 1750 there had been no enclosures and we owe a debt to Sir Walter Scott for chronicling many of the hedges, fences and walls erected locally between 1780 and 1810. Derek also used an 1857 detailed map as a reference as well as Google maps.

Flood management has been improved by engineered log-jams, native tree planting and altered watercourses. The Eddleston Water was largely straightened in the early 19th centuary to make way for a new toll road. Here at Lake Wood where there had been a spruce plantation for the last 50 years, the river has been re-meandered to form a more natural shape, with many more in-stream and riparian habitats provided.

Linear ponds have been left which are great for ducks and moorhens, a new pond was constructed, and the whole area allowed to flood, so that flooding through Peebles is reduced” see ariel photo from Tweed Forum . I recommend the Tweed Forum website which describes some of their past and current projects.

Derek ended his talk by saying that education is the key to future success and sustainability should be at the heart of the syllabus in Agricultural Colleges.

The next meeting of the SWT Berwickshire Members Centre will be on Thursday, January 7, in Duns Parish Church Hall at 7.30pm (entrance £1.50 includes light refreshments). The speaker is Sarah Eno (former SNH) with a talk on “Soil and Plant Life: The Borders”.