Saving Scotland's Wildlife

Roger Owen

In Scotland we have some of the best scenery in the world and I’m sure, like me, you probably take huge pleasure in the beautiful landscapes and fantastic wildlife you see on your outdoor adventures. But there’s no doubt that wildlife is under serious threat everywhere, and that includes the UK. There are very worrying declines in many animals and plants in Scotland. The State of Nature Scotland 2019 report (available on the NatureScot website) shows from 1994 to 2016, 49% of Scottish species have decreased due mainly to farming, climate change, the spread of urban areas, upland management and pollution problems. Climate warming alone is already causing enormous change with increased major flooding, soil loss, river temperatures approaching lethal limits for fish, squeezed ranges of native plants, as well as the advance of alien species of plants and animals.

This all sounds pretty bad but we can all help to stem this loss of wildlife. How? By taking part in citizen science projects. These are projects that are helping wildlife recover or are collecting information in order to better protect it. Although the term “citizen science” may sound awfully technical, I can assure you it is nothing of the sort and they are a lot of fun to take part in.

What’s on offer out there? How about helping NatureScot to find out where all our remaining wildflower meadows are? They are becoming very scarce but are so important for our bees and other pollinators. You can help by recording where you see some indicator wild flower plants at wildflower meadows

Trees and woodlands are important for many reasons in our landscape and the Woodland Trust is a great organisation to join if you are interested in helping to increase this wildlife habitat. Knowing where our most ancient trees are and recording new ones interests me greatly as they are such magnificent real-life Ents. You can learn how to identify and record them at Ancient Tree Inventory

If you like climbing on our coastal cliffs you’ll undoubtedly run into a lot of marine wildlife and the Marine Conservation Society would love to hear about what you’ve seen from jellyfish to basking sharks. You can tell them at Wildlife Sightings (MCS)

If you are interested in just about everything, and happy to send in wildlife reports on anything you see, the Biological Record Centres in Scotland would dearly love to hear from you! This is especially because hillwalking enthusiasts are often in places others might not get to. So, you can send these wildlife reports in to centres such as North East Scotland Biological Records Centre or you can use iRecord to see your own records on maps.

It strikes me that the huge community of hillwalkers and mountaineers in the North East of Scotland could provide some incredibly useful data to researchers looking at montane ecology, meteorology, hydrology and many other environmental observations. One recent example was a request from Plantlife for hillwalkers to take soil samples on Cairngorm Munros to see what kinds of fungi were present this summer. This information helps researchers to understand many issues such as soil biodiversity, climate change and disturbance. The response from walkers in adopting Munros to sample was very high and all these hills are being covered. Other opportunities include schemes run by the British Trust for Ornithology for recording mountain hares and ptarmigan as well as the breeding bird survey. The CNPA also run the photopost project which looks at landscape change in the Park over time.

I’m sure hillwalkers could provide many more useful observations. Do you have any ideas to suggest? Please let Roger know if you do (

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