Dounreay’s 140 acres cover a variety of habitats, including maritime grassland and heath, cliffs, seashore, the Mill Lade and grassland. Each habitat attracts a unique range of biodiversity onto the site.
Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, is the term used to describe the variety of life found on Earth, and all of the natural processes. This includes ecosystem, genetic and cultural diversity, and the connections between these and all species.
The perimeter fence helps make the site a haven for wildlife and plants. Bird species that breed on the site include Common gulls, Eider ducks, Arctic terns, Oystercatchers, Song thrushes and ravens.
There is evidence of owls, particularly in the small copse of trees outside the fence to the south east of the site. Recent work to encourage owls to breed in the copse saw the installation of nesting boxes. While no owls nested there last year, a family of jackdaws took advantage of the ready-made home.
Diverse insects such as bumble bees and butterflies are often to be found feeding on the wildflowers within the fence.
With such a range of natural biodiversity to be found, Dounreay has made a commitment to protect it by minimising the impact of its activities on the environment.
A Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) has been produced which contains actions to protect and promote the flora and fauna on the site.
It includes the bee meadow project, which was set up as a foraging area four years ago to encourage bumble bees onto site; the vegetation trials project which looks to find suitable habitats for the site’s end state; and the monitoring of the Scottish primroses that were moved during the construction of the new LLW vaults.
This year’s bee surveys showed that a number of bee species use the meadow, including the Great yellow bumblebee, White-tailed bumblebee, Common carder bee and the Garden bumblebee. All the species are fairly common, apart from the Great yellow which is now only found on the north coast and islands of Scotland, and in Ireland.
Towards the end of every summer the bee meadow is cut and the cuttings removed from the meadow to reduce the nutrient levels in the soil. This limits the amount of grass that grows and allows wildflowers to flourish. Some of the wildflower species include Kidney vetch, Common knapweed, Meadow vetchling, Birds-foot trefoil, Yellow rattle, Devils-bit scabious, Red and White clover, and Meadow foxtail to name a few.
The area next to the meadow will be developed into a ground-nesting bird habitat. It will use the grass cuttings from the bee meadow and be seeded to provide protection from the elements and from predators.
A new project included in the latest BAP is to develop the area adjacent to the new labs with wildflower species, rather than simply planting grass seed. The area was de-stoned and rotovated, then seeded at the end of July. The wildflower species will be monitored regularly.
All of the actions included in the latest version of the BAP are due to be completed by the end of 2016.