Growing research shows Scotland’s natural and built heritage is under attack from climate change, according to a number of groups.
WWF Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and RSPB Scotland have joined together to call for a strong Climate Change Bill to halt further decline and damage to Scotland’s famous flora, fauna and historic buildings.
Scotland is not immune to the planet’s changing climate. It has witnessed strong storms fuelled by global warming and experienced the destructive impacts of flooding and landslides.
The marine environment is changing as sea temperature shifts, sea level rises and acidification continues. These trends will continue unless there is a global effort to tackle climate change.
‘There is an ever growing body of evidence that shows many of the animals, plants and buildings we love in Scotland are already under attack from climate change.’
DR SAM GARDNER
Acting director at WWF Scotland
Earlier this year global experts gathered at Stirling University to discuss how best to protect Scotland’s iconic heritage sites from climate change.
Bryan Dickson, the National Trust for Scotland’s head of buildings conservation policy said, ‘Climate change is causing wetter summers and milder winters in Scotland. This is increasing the saturation of our historic properties from rainfall and groundwater, which not only affects the National Trust for Scotland, but everyone.’
He added that the costs of protection programmes are increasing as a result and that it it’s more challenging to ensure properties are presented in the best of condition.
‘The effects we are seeing on our historic buildings and gardens provide a warning sign. It is a constant battle to protect, maintain access and understand what a changing climate might mean for the places we not only value, but also rely on as part of our tourism industry and as a significant aspect of our cultural heritage.’
The National Trust for Scotland’s head of buildings conservation policy
It’s not just the Great Barrier Reef that is in danger of being destroyed by growing acidification of the oceans caused by climate change, our own reefs are under threat, as academics at University of Edinburgh revealed last year.
Scotland’s seas are rich in deep-sea reefs built by cold-water corals. Professor J Murray Roberts, chair in applied marine biology and ecology at the University of Edinburgh, explained that as the oceans become increasingly acidic, ‘the limestone skeletons at the base of these corals start to dissolve and new coral skeletons become weaker.’
‘The oceans have already absorbed a quarter of man-made carbon dioxide emissions’, he added. ‘This has helped reduce the impact of global warming but comes at a massive cost to marine ecosystems.’
‘The work we published last year also shows how vulnerable cold-water coral reefs are to changes in North Atlantic climate. If the westerly winds that help connect deep coral sites diminish as is predicted these diverse ecosystems will lose their connectivity and species that transfer from one reef to the next in the water currents may become isolated. This has obvious implications for the recently agreed network of marine protected areas in Scottish waters.’
PROFESSOR J MURRAY ROBERTS
Chair in applied marine biology and ecology at the University of Edinburgh
The popular image of a puffin with a mouth full of sand eels is becoming less common as climate change is warming the sea, affecting the abundance of sand eels. This means the main staple food of the puffin is becoming scarcer.
Peadar O’Connell, marine policy officer at RSPB Scotland, called climate change ‘an insidious pressure on Scotland’s beleaguered seabirds’. He added that waters around Scotland are warming fast, which affects the marine flora and fauna that can survive here. These changes are adding to the pressures already faced by the internationally important populations of seabirds in Scotland, including puffins, kittiwakes, terns and many others.
‘Declines of over 70% in the populations of kittiwakes and Arctic skuas, for example, have been linked to impacts of climate change through declines in the abundance of the fish they rely on to feed their chicks. Based on climate change predictions, unless we act, the future could see further declines and even the extinction of some of Scotland’s most iconic seabirds.’
Marine policy officer at RSPB Scotland
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