Scotland’s landscape “under attack” from climate change

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 27 December 2017 in News

WWF Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and RSPB Scotland come together to issue warning following growing concern over the effect of storms, flooding, landslides and rises in sea temperatures on both the natural and built environment

Image credit: Creative commons

Scotland’s landscape is “under attack” from the effects of climate change, according to WWF Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and RSPB Scotland.

The organisations came together to issue the warning following growing concern over the effect of storms, flooding, landslides and rises in sea temperatures on both the natural and built environment.

The groups called for ministers to include a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of the upcoming climate change bill.

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. This means the costs of our protection programmes are increasing and it is more challenging to ensure our properties are presented in the best of condition.”

Pointing to plans to surround the Hill House, built by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, with a transparent cage to protect it from the elements, Dickson said: “Our approach to the Hill House illustrates the significant cost implications and innovation required to protect our most precious buildings.

“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.” 

RSPB Scotland marine policy officer Peadar O’Connell warned that climate change is exerting an “insidious pressure” on Scotland’s seabirds, with warmer waters adding to the pressures already faced by seabirds such as puffins, kittiwakes, and terns.

O’Connell said: “Declines of over 70 per cent  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.”

Professor J Murray Roberts, chair in applied marine biology & ecology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Scotland’s seas are rich in deep-sea reefs built by cold-water corals. 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. 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.”

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