The 2016 State of Nature report has revealed that 520 wildlife species in Scotland are at risk of extinction.
The report was released by a collaborative group of conservation and research charities, including the Woodland Trust Scotland, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Of the estimated 6,000 wildlife species in Scotland, 65 are considered ‘Critically Endangered’ in Great Britain.
The report outlines the various risks to species, and ways in which biodiversity is being conserved and restored.
One of the major causes for the increased threat of extinction is intense farming, particularly in the lowlands and coastal areas.
The resulting fragmentation of suitable habitats has led to the loss of many birds and other wildlife.
Over 98 per cent of flower meadows in the UK have disappeared over the last century, resulting in the extinction of two bumblebee species and the severe reduction of populations.
Agriculture and development have reduced salt marshes in coastal areas such as the Firth of Forth by 50 per cent.
Climate change is also noted to be of significance in the destruction of freshwater and coastal habitats.
Rising water temperatures are forcing arctic-alpine species, such as the mayfly, further north and to higher elevations.
Due to this, mayfly are no longer found in level freshwater habitats. The trend of smaller, more northern, and higher altitude habitats is predicted for several mountain dwelling species.
Furthermore, a rise in sea levels and an increase in storms are threatening to flood inland areas, diminishing coastal habitats.
Urban wildlife is also at risk. Pollinating insects are finding it increasingly difficult to survive due to loss of habitat, pesticide use, and separation between pollen areas.
Research by the RSPB suggests that humans are also suffering negative effects on well-being, due to a disconnect from nature.
Many factors have had a part to play in Scotland’s declining wildlife, although agressive agricultural practices have clearly been a primary influence.
While climate change has had a mixture of positive and negative effects on biodiversity, the long term consequences will likely be severe and impossible to ignore.
Various conservation projects have had success, for example: ‘B-lines’ of insect friendly habitat are being created between and around existing wildlife regions, such as Glasgow, Fife, and Perth in order to link wildlife areas together. Similarly, a restoration of the link between sea and salt marshes has led to re-habitation of many key plant and insect species. Although the situation is serious, productive action to conserve biodiversity can be effective.
Image: Vivian Uhlir