The country is heading towards an ecological disaster, but we can still pull back from the brink
The clock is ticking towards midnight for an alarming number of species in Scotland – but they can still be saved if we act now.
That’s the findings of a major new report into the condition of the country’s environment.
A coalition of 50 leading wildlife experts and charities have published the State of Nature study, which presents the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea.
In Scotland, one in every 11 species assessed is at risk of becoming extinct (9%) and for some groups of species that threat is even higher.
The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before
For example, 18% of butterflies, 15% of dragonflies and 13% of plants are officially classified as being at risk of extinction.
Across the UK as a whole, over one in ten species assessed are under threat of disappearing altogether (13%) and 2% have already become extinct.
There are many inspiring examples of the conservation action that is helping to turn the tide in Scotland.
For instance, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is working with farmers and communities to create more habitats for great yellow bumblebees across their range in Caithness; the John Muir Trust is tackling damage caused by deer to ancient Atlantic oak and hazel woodland with a combination of fencing and planting and RSPB Scotland is restoring the globally important expanse of blanket bog in the Flow Country after it was damaged by inappropriate commercial conifer plantations. But much more work is needed to put nature back where it belongs.
As the Scottish and UK governments move forward in the light of the EU Referendum result, there is an opportunity to secure world leading protection for our species and restoration of our nature.
The State of Nature 2016 UK report was launched by Sir David Attenborough in London this week (Wednesday, September 14), with a separate event in Edinburgh.
Sir David said: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects.
“Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people. The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”
The Edinburgh event was attended by environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP. She said: “This report highlights the challenges which lie ahead in conserving Scotland’s wonderful nature. The Scottish Government is committed to driving forward Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy, the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity, and its accompanying route map to 2020.
“We will publish a progress report at the end of this month and early indications show the majority of actions included in the route map are on track to achieve their targets. We have so much to be proud of in Scotland and so much to protect and enhance. That means we all have much work to do and I look forward to working with our partners to improve the state of nature in Scotland.”
Dr Maggie Keegan, head of policy and planning at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and one of the authors of the report, said: “The State of Nature 2016 report shows an urgent need to address the decline of Scotland’s wildlife. It is vital that people and organisations work together now to restore native habitats for future generations.
“Nature is important in its own right but it also provides a huge range of essential services, ranging from the clean air that we breathe to the pollination of our crops. The value of many of the services that nature provides is immeasurable, but a recent estimate of those that can be measured shows that nature is worth between £21 - £23 billion per year to Scotland’s economy.
“The findings in the new report support the creation of a National Ecological Network that would link up protected areas and fragmented semi-natural habitats, helping wildlife move more freely and become more resilient to threats such as climate change. Increasingly we will need to deliver conservation on a landscape scale through initiatives such as the Trust’s Living Landscapes programme, and ensure that people are better connected with nature.
“We also have to radically reform Scottish agriculture to ensure that the billions of pounds of public funding that are spent on it are used in a way that allows wildlife to thrive alongside food production and bring benefits for many people and not just a few.”