A fund has been launched allowing projects aimed at protecting nature in Scotland to apply for financial support.
The Biodiversity Challenge Fund opened on Monday and will make a total of around £2 million available over two years, with around half of the funding being provided in 2019/20.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will invite proposals for grant funding to large scale projects aiming to improve habitats, safeguard species and encourage increased access to nature.
Ideas with a focus on helping at-risk habitats and species, as well as those aiming to connect existing nature reserves and protected areas, are being particularly sought by SNH.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham launched the fund at SNH’s Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, joining volunteers in planting native broadleaf trees to attract red squirrels.
Ms Cunningham, said: “Scotland is leading the way with work to protect our natural environment and we are committed to doing more to safeguard our biodiversity, species and habitats.
“I’m delighted to launch this new fund of up to £2 million, which should enable the creation and improvement of habitats across the country, providing vital support to some of our most vulnerable wildlife, as well as encouraging people to access and enjoy Scotland’s incredible natural resources.”
SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Our nature – from the green spaces in our towns and cities to our remote and wild mountains, islands, coasts and seas – is a precious national asset and a big part of what makes Scotland so special.
“Scotland has been recognised as a global front-runner for our efforts to tackle biodiversity loss and safeguard our natural heritage, with notable improvements to our marine environment, peatlands, rivers and woodlands in recent years.
“I’m proud of the progress that has been made, but we are not complacent in the face of ongoing challenges such as climate change, habitat loss and invasive non-native species.
“This significant new investment will step up action by supporting ambitious projects to deliver concrete results and help protect our country’s incredible natural resources for future generations.”