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27 December 2019

2020: BIG YEAR FOR SCOTLAND’S NATURE

All eyes will be on Scotland in 2020, as it prepares to host important UN talks on the future of global nature protection in April [1], and the Climate COP26 in November.  Meanwhile, the nature on our own doorstep continues to decline, according to leading conservationists.

The State of Nature report, published earlier this year, found that 1 in 9 Scottish species is at risk of extinction, driven by climate change, agriculture, urbanisation and other environmental pressures [2]. The outlook is bleak but if we act quickly, we can turn their fortunes around [3] and there are some important success stories to draw on for inspiration.

In order to reverse wildlife declines and restore nature over the next decade, WWF Scotland is calling for urgent action on the ground, more funding for habitat management and restoration, new environmental legislation with bold targets and a strong watchdog to hold the government legally accountable for nature recovery.  2020 must be the year that we recognise just how vital our natural environment is and take the steps required to protect it.

With an international platform next year, we also want to see the Scottish Government playing a leading role in drawing the links between the climate and nature crises, and championing nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. One such solution is restoring our peatlands – which store up to 20 times more carbon than all the trees in the UK, help reduce flooding and provide improved habitat for some unique species.

Species currently under pressure include:

  • Scottish Wildcat (critically endangered)
  • Red Squirrel (endangered)
  • Capercaillie (endangered)
  • Hedgehogs (vulnerable)
  • Black grouse (vulnerable)
  • Orkney Vole (vulnerable)
  • Pearl bordered fritillary (endangered)
  • Cloud Living Spider (endangered)
  • Bog hoverfly (critically endangered)
  • Northern Blue Damselfly (endangered)
  • Dingy Skipper butterfly (vulnerable)

We know that nature can respond quickly to the right interventions - otters and pine martens being great examples of what can be achieved.

In the 1970s, otters were lost from much of the UK due to pesticide pollution in water bodies, clinging on along only the cleanest rivers in north and west Scotland. By the 1990s, they were considered widespread across the country once again. A clean up of rivers and improved water quality are main factors behind the otter’s increased range. [4]

Similarly, pine martens saw a dramatic decline in the 19th century, due to habitat loss and persecution and populations were confined to the north west Highlands. Following introduction of legal protection in 1988, the population has started to recover, spreading south and east as far as the central belt [5]

Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland, said:

“Important decisions will be made here in Scotland in 2020 about the future of nature around the world and the links to the climate crisis.  That’s why it’s so important we have our own house in order.  This means stepping up ambition to restore our amazing nature - we cannot tackle the climate crisis without addressing the emergency facing our most precious species. We need new action and funding for nature, environmental legislation with bold targets and a strong watchdog to hold the government legally accountable for halting and reversing the loss of our precious habitats and species.”

Pat Monaghan, Regius Professor of Zoology at University of Glasgow said:

“Action to protect vulnerable species and habitats should be central to biodiversity conservation. Without targeted action plans, the specialist species that make our ecosystems distinct will be replaced by widespread generalists, with an overall loss of the biodiversity that makes our ecosystems resilient to environmental change.  Focussing on wildlife that is seen as useful to us in the short term is not the answer.  We need species and habitat recovery plans, and we need to implement these as a matter of urgency.”

Paul Walton of RSPB Scotland and lead author of the State of Nature Scotland report, said:

“With two key global conferences, on biodiversity and climate, both happening in Scotland in 2020, the eyes of the world will be on our country. How we prioritise, support and fund the twin climate and nature crises, how we use our ingenuity to find innovative solutions that genuinely deliver for both, will be under scrutiny. Peatland restoration, effective management of kelp beds and salt marshes, tree planting that delivers diverse and flourishing native woodland alongside timber production, better management of agricultural soils and habitats and a step-up in targeted species conservation, will be among the key pointers to success.”

Notes to Editors

[1] In April Scotland will host an inter-sessional of the UN Conference of Biological Diversity (CBD), ahead of a major UN CBD summit in October in China, which will aim to agree new objectives to replace the Aichi global biodiversity targets, which expire in 2020.  https://www.cbd.int/

[2] State of Nature Scotland Report 2019 https://www.nature.scot/state-nature-scotland-report-2019

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