State of Nature Report: The silence of the seasons

There is little ambiguity about the state of nature in Scotland.

The State of Nature Report, published by more than 70 leading nature conservation organisations, sets out the grave plight of Scotland’s wildlife, where nearly half of the country’s species have declined in the last 25 years, and one in nine is threatened with extinction.

Spend time in our countryside and the signs are all too apparent. We are missing kestrels hovering in the skies, noticing an absence of lapwings and oystercatchers at the water’s edge, observing fewer butterflies and moths in our meadows, and lacking tree cover from key species such as ash.

Without the thousands of people that work in nature conservation, for example on our wildlife reserves across Scotland, the situation would undoubtedly be worse. Success stories such as the osprey, pine marten, otter and beaver are just a few of the reminders that we can work together to make a real difference and that it is not too late to act.

The precarious state of biodiversity in Scotland has consequences for us all. It jeopardises the many services that nature provides such as the food we enjoy from land and sea, the work that insects do to pollinate our crops, and the multiple benefits we get from woodland timber.

The situation is even more acute when you consider that we face a climate emergency. Nature helps regulate our climate through the many ways in which woodlands, peatlands, urban greenery and the marine environment act to sequester and store carbon.

“Continuing to allow things to deteriorate at the current rate will tie our hands as we strive to meet our ambitious new emissions target of net-zero by 2045. Rather than sit back and watch our natural environment breakdown we must act now by investing in a key solution: nature.”

Dougie Peedle 

Continuing to allow things to deteriorate at the current rate will tie our hands as we strive to meet our ambitious new emissions target of net-zero by 2045. Rather than sit back and watch our natural environment breakdown we must act now by investing in a key solution: nature.

Reducing emissions by changing the way we travel, heat our homes and produce our food is a vital part of our response to climate change. But it will not be sufficient by itself to meet our new targets.

Earlier this year, an expert report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) concluded that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the measures needed between now and 2030 to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

 

Capercaillie
One in nine of Scotland’s species is facing extinction (Capercaillie © Luke Massey / 2020VISION)

Investing in nature is critical

Scotland is uniquely well placed to invest in nature. With natural advantages including 11% of Europe’s coastline, 13% of the world’s blanket bog and 90% of the UK’s freshwater, there are numerous opportunities to enhance and restore ecosystems in a way that helps to reverse biodiversity loss.

To do so, we must plan ahead and invest in our green and blue infrastructure over the long-term, enhancing its ability to provide these natural solutions.

The Infrastructure Commission for Scotland has already been tasked with providing independent advice for a 30-year infrastructure strategy. We need to take the same approach to natural infrastructure as we do to that of roads, railways and telephone networks.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust would like to see the Infrastructure Commission working with Scottish Natural Heritage to provide a new 30-year strategy that sets out how we take action and fund the necessary investment in our natural habitats to transform our relationship with the natural world.

“With natural advantages including 11% of Europe’s coastline, 13% of the world’s blanket bog and 90% of the UK’s freshwater, there are numerous opportunities to enhance and restore ecosystems in a way that helps to reverse biodiversity loss.”

Dougie Peedle

This would be entirely consistent with the Infrastructure Commission’s existing objectives to deliver sustainable economic growth and manage the transition to a more resource efficient, lower carbon economy.

It would also enable coordination of all types of infrastructure investment to identify synergies and potential conflicts. Only with this type of detailed strategic planning can we hope to address both the biodiversity and climate change crises.

Rachel Carson set out in her prophetic and classic book Silent Spring how failing to act on harmful pesticide could decimate bird life and lead to a ‘spring without voices’.

The state of nature in Scotland and the extent of climate change is such that, as a result of our short-sighted actions, we could stifle the natural sounds of the changing seasons to the extent that future generations never get to hear them.

Nature is our life support system; we owe it to future generations to plan properly for how we invest to support its recovery and ensure a robust plan to address climate change.

Find out more about our Nature’s Emergency Service campaign

Dougie Peedle, Head of Policy

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Preface

There is little ambiguity about the state of nature in Scotland. The State of Nature Report, published by more than 70 leading nature conservation organisations, sets out the grave plight …

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