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Newts and toads are being given a helping hand this winter on a former open cast coalmine in Fife, thanks to work to build artificial, winter hibernation homes for the threatened species.

The Blairhouse project is part of a drive by Forestry and Land Scotland to repurpose a number of brownfield sites, while locking up carbon and improving the environment for protected species and people.

Working with volunteers from NatWest – and in partnership with The Conservation Volunteers – FLS is planting new woodland on the former mine site and making sure that the amphibian residents are looked after.

The ponds and wetlands at Blairhouse, which are common on former mine sites, are already home to significant populations of amphibians, including European Protected Species such as the Great Crested Newt.

But while some amphibian species, such as the common frog, are doing reasonably well in the UK others are in long term decline and require active habitat management. (The common toad has seen populations decline by 68% over the past 30 years)

Juli Titherington, FLS’s Central Region Environment Advisor, said;

“Once a common sight in back gardens and ponds, habitat fragmentation, the draining of ponds and wetland areas and a lack of suitable habitats are all factors in the continued decline in creatures such as toads and newts.

“By giving them a helping hand – by creating artificial, overwintering habitats – we can aid their recovery in the short term while the new woodland establishes to create natural hibernacula.

“We’ve selected the tree species to best match the local conditions and to provide habitats for animals and a lovely place to enjoy for human visitors. We’ve also taken into account climate models and likely warmer temperatures.

“Along with all of Scotland’s woodlands, this new woodland will absorb carbon from the atmosphere while it grows, helping to mitigate climate change, while ensuring a long term supply of timber.”

Forestry and Land Scotland have been involved in the remediation of ex opencast mining sites for over 15 years.

Other vacant and derelict sites where FLS is currently creating woodland are Damside, Ponesk-Spireslack and Polkemmet in Central Region; and Piperhill and Skares-Netherton in South Region. FLS is also working with a landfill operator at Greenoakhill, Uddingston, to create woodland following landfill operations.These sites, along with others now owned by FLS, will yield around 1000 hectares of new woodland, once remediated and replanted.

By the time the Blairhouse project is complete approximately 80,000 trees will be planted, including species such as birch, common alder, aspen, willow, oak, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, Macedonian pine – along with native shrubs such as, hazel, hawthorn, dog rose, guelder rose and field maple.


Notes to editors

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or