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Illegal Moss Collecting For Christmas Highlighted

16th December 2012

Photograph of Illegal Moss Collecting For Christmas Highlighted

Scots are being urged to make sure moss in festive wreaths has been legally and ethically sourced this Christmas.

In the past, large quantities of moss have been illegally harvested from the wild and sold for wreaths and hanging baskets. People who make their own wreaths may also be unaware that it is an offence to uproot a wild plant without the landowners permission.

Scotland holds more than 60 per cent of European moss species and sphagnum moss is particularly important, as it provides a protective layer for endangered peat bogs. Bogs will eventually dry out if large amounts of moss are removed. Peat bogs are a natural carbon sink and are highly important as they combat the effects of climate change.

Mosses can be gathered from conifer plantations. But collectors should avoid places where rare mosses are likely to be found. These include sensitive locations such as bogs, stream sides, rock outcrops, as well as sites such as walls, tree trunks and dead wood, and in particular moss should not be taken from areas designated for nature conservation and native woodlands.

Environment Minister and Chairman of PAW, Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

Stealing moss may not sound like a wildlife crime but the destruction of plants and habitat can have a profound impact on ecosystems and it is important to prevent these crimes just as it is important to stamp out crimes involving wild animals.

The recent theft of hundreds of Christmas trees in the Scottish Borders underlines the need for extra vigilance in the countryside at this time of the year, as well as extra care in knowing the source of your festive decorations.

Dr David Genney, SNH's moss advisor, said:

"Not many people would guess that when theyre buying or making holiday wreaths, it could damage sensitive, protected habitats or support illegal commercial activity but its certainly possible. Id suggest collecting moss from commercial forestry plantations before felling to make sure you dont harm valuable moss. Also, if you see evidence of unauthorised commercial harvest, or collection from protected places, please contact your local police force."

The Scottish Moss Collection Code outlines the best methods of collection. If anyone sees evidence of harvesters not following the guidelines, they should contact the police and ask to speak to the Wildlife Crime Officer. The moss code also has information on certification, which means a product is guaranteed to have been produced legally.

PAW Scotland is the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. PAW Scotland membership encompasses a wide range of bodies with an interest in tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, shooting and law enforcement organisations.