THEY have, say scientists, nowhere to go.

Global warming is driving some of Scotland’s most totemic plants and animals north in search of cooler climes. But many are running out of land - and facing extinction as a result as their entire ecosystems, including peat moorlands, disappear.

That, at least, is the conclusion of the latest report to flag up this country’s specific vulnerability to climate change.

“Scotland’s position at the western edge of the European continent will exacerbate the impacts of climate change as it limits the extent to which species can move in response to changed climatic conditions,” said researchers working for the World Wildlife Fund and Scottish Environment LINK. “For terrestrial species that need to move north to track suitable climate space, there is, quite literally, nowhere to go.”

Their report, Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert, stresses that it is not just land animals and plants which face an existential threat as average temperatures rise. Iconic species at risk include the Atlantic Salmon, the Capercaillie and the freshwater pearl mussel. The white beaked dolphin lives in subpolar waters. Warming seas means it is expected to move north.

There are particular worries about the Arctic charr. This was the first freshwater fish to recolonise Scotland’s lochs after the retreat of the ice age. The species is already at its southern limit. Scientists make an obvious point: unlike sea fish or dolphins facing similar dangers, it cannot simply swim north. The charr, suggest experts, lives or dies in Scottish lochs.

Global warming could bring less snow on the high tops of Scotland’s mountains. This is bad news, said the WWF for the snow bunting. Alpine and arctic plant species are also under threat.

But the snowy high tops are not the only eco-systems facing a grim future as the world warms. The report highlighted the danger from rising sea levels to the Machai, a fertile, grassy habitat found nowhere on the planet except northern Scotland and north-west Ireland

It said long-term studies showed changes on moorlands. There is a visible drop of specialist species like dwarf willow. Four-fifths of Scotland’s peatlands are “degraded”.

These eco-systems are not just endangered by climate change. Rising temperature comes on top of other man-made problems.

The report says 44 per cent of Scotland’s blanket peat bog was lost between the 1940s and the 1980s. It added: “Native woodland now only covers 4 per cent of Scotland’s land area and over half of those woodlands are in unsatisfactory condition for biodiversity.”

Climate change threatens species globally. A two-percent rise would wipe out one in twenty of our plants and animals. Scientists predict average temperatures will rise by around 1.5 per cent between now and some time in the middle of this century.

Sir David Attenborough, the television naturalist, late last year told the latest global summit on global warming that the world was facing its greatest threat for millenia. He said: “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Scotland may not feature much on the kind of TV shows Sir David makes. But WWF stressed plants and animals in this country were every bit as unique and vulnerable as those elsewhere.

Sam Gardner, acting director at WWF Scotland said: Scotland is rightly proud of its diverse and unique flora and fauna, but we need to wake up to the fact it is increasingly under threat from climate change. It’s not just polar bears that are under threat, but our beloved Scottish species and habitats too.

“Nature is on the frontline of climate change. Even small increases in temperature threaten many of the plants and animals that give Scotland its iconic landscapes, but that we also depend on for food and pollination.

The WWF report stressed the human and economic cost of climate change, with threats to, for example, shell fisheries.

Craig Macadam, Scottish Environment LINK Vice-Chair said: “From peatlands to pearl mussels, Scotland is home to many globally significant species and habitats. With these wildlife treasures comes an international responsibility to protect them for future generations.

“We need to give our species and habitats a fighting chance to adapt to climate change. It is important that we restore the health of our nature and improve its resilience to climate change impacts.”

Like Mr Gardner, Mr Macadam called for tougher greenhouse gas targets in the current climate bill going through Holyrood. The SNP has responded to similar criticism in the past saying that its bill has some of the most ambitious targets for reducing fossil fuel emissions in the world. It wants to cut emissions by 90 per cent by 2050. Green leader Patrick Harvie has called zero emissions by that date.