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02 June 2021

SCOTTISH SPECIES AT RISK AS TEMPERATURES RISE

The impact rising temperatures is having on Scottish wildlife has been brought into sharp focus with the launch of a new WWF report today (Wed 2 June). [1]

‘Feeling the Heat: The fate of nature beyond 1.5°C of global warming’ outlines the effects of the global climate emergency on people and nature, and how the future of us all depends on humanity’s urgent response. It lays bare the jeopardy species such as Scotland’s iconic mountain hare and puffin are under, alongside beloved UK-wide species such as bumblebees and bluebells. Further afield, snow leopards, emperor penguins and coral reefs are also struggling to cope.

Within a human lifetime, we have already seen extraordinary and unparalleled changes to our planet. Global wildlife populations have fallen an average of 68 per cent since 1970, while 2020 marked the end of the hottest decade on record. WWF warns that the current trajectory for our climate will create an unsafe home for people and nature, with every half-degree increase in temperature bringing additional pressures. 

The report highlights 12 species from around the world, including two key Scottish species, highlighting what’s at stake for them should the upcoming COP26 climate talks in Glasgow fail to reach agreement on keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees.

The risks for these species include:

MOUNTAIN HARE

As the UK’s only true native hare, mountain hares living in the Highlands of Scotland have evolved a brilliant strategy to escape predators.

  • In summer they have brown pelage that blends with environment, in October they switch to a white coat to help camouflage them in the snow.
  • Snow cover in Highlands is declining meaning hares are more exposed and vulnerable to predators.
  • Habitat change due to warming temperatures will also push them to move higher in smaller and more fragmented territories.

ATLANTIC PUFFIN

Sometimes called the “clown of the sea,” the Atlantic puffin may not delight bird lovers for much longer if ocean temperatures continue to rise.

  • Volatile weather events impacts feeding and breeding
  • Overfishing severely reducing food source, diving for fish risks the getting entangled in fishing nets
  • Even a small change in temperature means that sandeels, a major source of food, can disappear entirely. If we want to keep puffins and other seabird species afloat, we need to act now and limit the rise in global temperatures. 

Sheila George, Environment and Food Policy Manager at WWF Scotland said:

“Scotland is rightly proud of its diverse and unique flora and fauna, but we need to wake up to the fact it is increasingly under threat from climate change. As this report shows, it’s not just snow leopards that are in danger, but our beloved Scottish species and habitats are too, with 1 in 9 under threat of extinction.

“Even small increases in temperature threaten many of the plants and animals that not only make Scotland unique, but that we also depend on for food and pollination.  That’s why it’s so vital the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow are a success and agreement is reached to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees.  World leaders must agree targets, and the actions necessary to achieve them, to keep the natural world we rely on safe and thriving for us and future generations.”

Sheila George added:

“Scotland must lead the charge by driving down emissions, for example in the way we heat our homes and produce food, and by restoring vital habitats like peatlands and woodlands, that help us capture and store carbon.”

Notes to Editors

[1] ‘Feeling the Heat: The fate of nature beyond 1.5°C of global warming’ FEELING_THE_HEAT_REPORT.pdf

[2] State of Nature report https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/state-of-nature-report/