21 July 2009

Minister launches new SNH climate change action plan

Green networks can help species in Scotland to adapt to climate change by providing opportunities for them to move to suitable new habitats, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) confirmed today.

But in extreme cases it may be necessary to consider action to translocate - or move - some species to maintain their viability.

Changing weather patterns over the coming decades are likely to have far-reaching effects on Scotland’s nature and landscapes, with the likelihood that some species will be winners and others losers.

However, effective management and conservation can improve the scope for species to adapt by ensuring the effects of future climate change are taken into account in current planning, SNH has stressed.

Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson today launched the five-year SNH action plan for climate change.

In it, SNH outlines a series of measures in which our nature and landscape can be primed to meet the challenges presented by the changes and challenges.

These include:
  • Creating and managing green networks around towns and cities to increase the opportunities for wildlife to adapt and flourish as well as delivering other benefits
  • Planning for sustainable future renewables schemes
  • Protecting carbon stored in peatlands and capturing carbon by growing new woodlands
  • Managing coastal lands to help adapt to the effects of rising sea levels
  • Managing wetlands and floodplains as natural systems which can help reduce flood risk.
Speaking at Dawsholm Park Local Nature Reserve in Maryhill, part of the Clyde Valley green network, climate change minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“Scotland has positioned itself at the forefront of international action on climate change with ambitious legislation that will help Scotland take advantage of the opportunities presented by the move to a low carbon economy.

“The public sector has a leading role in supporting delivery of that ambition, and can demonstrate this by setting its own demanding reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, sharing best practice, and encouraging wider action through partnership working and visible reporting on performance.

“I commend SNH for making a public commitment to tackling climate change, defining their role and planned action, and setting out how they will work with others to ensure Scotland’s nature prospers in a changing climate.”

In its action plan SNH recommends coastal management should employ soft engineering techniques by making use of coastal habitats, sand and gravel to absorb wave energy.

That advice comes amid scientific evidence that seasonal events in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments will occur earlier in the coming decades.

Certain species will face additional pressure if they cannot disperse and may only be able to survive by being translocated to a new area. But SNH has advised that this strategy is to be used only as a last resort as it is costly, time-consuming, and there is no guarantee of success.

Of the 450 established non-native higher plant species in Britain, around 10-15% are already considered invasive and changes to our climatic conditions could increase this number.

Professor Colin Galbraith, SNH’s director of policy and advice, said:

“Protected areas, including those privately owned and managed as well as those owned by SNH, will remain important for species and habitat conservation.

“They will provide source populations and colonising habitat for dispersing species. Green networks can also play an important part by providing the connectivity which will give species opportunities to move to new suitable habitat.

“However, it is a possibility that action may be needed to translocate some species in order to maintain viable populations. Protected sites would be able to make an important contribution to delivering any such strategy should it prove necessary. This kind of management could, however, only be considered as a last resort where no other option was available.

“What is certain, however, is that climate change is here and the actions we take now can go a long way to addressing future challenges. Our aim is to inform the people of Scotland about these changes and provide advice on adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

“The Climate Change (Scotland) Bill has been passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2009. The Scottish legislation has set an interim greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 42% by 2020 and introduces a duty on public bodies, including SNH, to help in delivering targets and to contribute to relevant programmes of adaptation to climate change.

“The launch of the climate change action plan today demonstrates our commitment to playing a full part in achievement of Scotland’s climate change objectives.”

Stewart Stevenson
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