THEY are projects which protect some of Scotland's most fragile ecosystems, parts of the intricate web of nature which are often overlooked.

And now the guardians of butterflies, trees, beavers and deep-sea habitats have been recognised for their achievements amlongside others at the country's most prestigious nature awards.

A community-led scheme to save an endangered butterfly, a project studying coral reefs and a man who has dedicated years of his life to saving one particular type of tree have all been named winners at the annual Nature of Scotland Awards, held last night in Edinburgh.

The awards celebrate people and projects from across the country who work to save nature in all its forms, and help look after the country’s unique and special places.

Nine awards were presented during the event at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, which was hosted by wildlife cameraman and TV presenter Gordon Buchanan and BBC Scotland radio and TV presenter Euan McIlwraith.


The Small Blue butterfly

Coastal communities in Angus who have enthusiastically worked together since 2012 to understand and halt the sharp decline of the iconic Small Blue butterfly were one of the groups to receive an award.

This project, which received the Community Initiative Award, has been striving to bring the species back from the brink by studying populations in one of the few hotspots left.

The butterfly's life cycle depends on the kidney vetch plant, which shelters its larvae and also provides its food source - but it only grown in select areas along the coast.Catherine Lloyd, Catherine Lloyd, Coordinator, and Tayside Biodiversity Partnership who manage the scheme, said: "While the primary goal of this project is to provide an ecosystem within which the Small Blue can flourish, it has been vital that the community has been invested in the future of this species and can appreciate the importance of nature and conservation.

"People of all ages have played their part in this biodiversity project – an indication that people feel connected with the natural environment around them and want to take responsibility for its protection.”

Another receiving an award was Stewart Taylor, who has championed a whole host of overlooked species from the tiny green shield moss and tooth fungi to scarce and threatened lichens and invertebrates.

He has dedicated a lifetime working and volunteering to conserve wildlife in the Cairngorms National Park, and in recent years his focus has been aspen tree, making a huge contribution to its conservation and raising the profile of this iconic tree.

Mr Taylor, who received the RSPB Species Champion Award, said: “I am absolutely delighted. It is a real honour and really nice to be recognised for my work on aspen.

"It’s a beautiful tree that supports many overlooked species, I am proud to be part of the aspen group contributing aspen conservation in the Cairngorms. I hope this award will help shine a spotlight on aspen.”  

The Royal Zoological Society of Edinburgh was joint winner of the Species Champion for their work reintroducing wild beavers to Scotland.

The Changing Oceans group at the University of Edinburgh highlight the importance of Scottish deep-sea habitats and the biodiversity they support, how they will be impacted by future climate change, and how collaboration with policymakers, managers and industry is crucial to conserve these vulnerable marine ecosystems. 

This group received the Conservation Science Award. Project lead Dr. Sebastian Hennige said: "The challenge moving forwards is to ensure engagement between science, policy, industry and the general public, to raise awareness of these important habitats and to enact effective conservation of them.”

Other winners included the Comrie Croft Eco Farm, which received the SNH Business Award, Seasearch, which won the Coasts and Waters Award, and Lynbreck Croft, winner of the Food and Farming Award.


Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland.

The Innovation Award was won by TVC Natural Talent programme, while SunnysidePrimary school received the  Youth and Education Award.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP was named the Political Advocate of the Year.

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “It’s been another brilliant year for the Nature of Scotland Awards, with more applications than ever before.

Francesca Osowska, Chief Executive of SNH, added: “A big congratulations to all of the inspiring people who have been recognised for the amazing work they are doing across Scotland."


The full list of winners: 

SNH Business Award (sponsored by Scottish Natural Heritage): Comrie Croft Eco Farm - positive solutions for people and nature 

Coasts and Waters Award (sponsored by Scottish Water): Seasearch - 30 years of underwater citizen science 

Community Initiative Award (sponsored by GreenPower): Back from the Brink - Saving the Small Blue 

Conservation Science Award (sponsored by SAGES):  Understanding and conserving Scottish cold-water reefs and deep-sea habitats 

Food and Farming Award (sponsored by The James Hutton Institute): Lynbreck Croft 

Innovation Award (sponsored by Balfour Beatty): TVC Natural Talent programme - closing the ecological skills gap 

Political Advocate of the Year: Roseanna Cunningham MSP 

RSPB Species Champion Award (sponsored by The Ardmore): Stewart Taylor – Cairngorms Amazing Aspen and Championing the return of beavers to Scotland 

Youth and Education Award (sponsored by Scottish Power): Sunnyside Primary - how small ripples bring about tides of change