South of Scotland black grouse survival action call
A new report has called for "greater and more sustained co-operative action" to help save threatened black grouse populations in the south of Scotland.
Scottish Natural Heritage said the birds faced "continued pressures" across the area.
The report confirms black grouse numbers in southern Scotland are in long-term decline.
Scientists predict that drop is likely to continue unless "strategic action" is taken to address the situation.
The information is contained within the report Black Grouse Conservation in Southern Scotland - the product of a joint SNH, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and South Uplands Partnership (SUP) research project.
The report concluded that black grouse survive where they have large patches of moorland to live in.
It seeks to lay the foundations for a "landscape-scale approach" which would focus on protecting known "core" populations before increasing the population numbers and connections to other patches on the landscape.
|Total number of males attending leks at survey sites in 1989-99 compared with 2006-12|
Sue Haysom, the project manager within SNH, said: "The report provides a key foundation for strategic action and identifies the next steps to save black grouse in the south of Scotland.
"Black grouse, like many species, face a range of pressures and need our help.
"This report sets us on a firm foundation and identifies how our limited resources could be used to best effect."
She said the next step was for everyone with an interest in the black grouse to work together to develop a "strategic conservation plan".
Pip Tabor, project manager with the SUP, said: "The SUP is really pleased that this study has confirmed the need for a landscape-scale approach to black grouse conservation.
"We sincerely hope that funds will now be found to deliver the necessary actions so that we can keep this charismatic species thriving in the Southern Uplands."
Dr Phil Warren, senior scientist at the GWCT, said the black grouse of southern Scotland had "severely declined" and now only occupied "a fraction of their formerly occupied range".
"Here, urgent conservation action is required to prevent further decline and to stabilise numbers," he said.
"This project provides an important evidence base and we look forward to working and engaging with land managers and other partners to develop and implement a landscape scale plan to conserve black grouse here."