More than one in 10 species face disappearing from Scotland, says a shocking report on the “crisis” state of wildlife north of the Border.

Almost half of species have declined over the period of its reporting – according to the most comprehensive State of Nature report ever produced.

The latest findings show that, in the five decades since consistent scientific monitoring began, there has been a 24 per cent decline in average species abundance across monitored wildlife. The report confirms that, averaged across all wildlife groups, the decline continues unabated.

Following on from State of Nature reports in 2013 and 2016, leading professionals from more than 70 wildlife organisations have, for the first time, joined with Government agencies to present the clearest picture to date of the status of species across the land and sea.

The State of Nature Scotland report 2019 reveals that, since recording began, 49% of Scottish species have decreased while 28% have increased.

Nature is changing rapidly, with 62% of species showing strong differences. Of the 6,413 species found in Scotland that have been assessed, 11% have been classified as threatened with extinction from Scotland.

But experts also conclude that it is not too late to act. Much is known about the causes of decline and about some of the ways in which we could reduce impacts and help struggling species. The evidence from the last 50 years shows that significant and ongoing changes in the way we manage land and sea and the ongoing effects of climate change are having the biggest impacts on nature.
Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “Nature is still being lost across Scotland at a deeply concerning rate. 

“Whilst we welcome Government recognition of the climate and environment crises threatening our natural world – and that restoring the natural world can provide some of the solutions we need – there desperately needs to be more immediate action and cooperation on the protection of nature. 

“We need ambitious legislation with binding targets backed by realistic resources, to not only halt nature’s decline but secure its recovery. And we need it now.”

Moths have been particularly hard hit in Scotland with numbers down by 25% in abundance. 

Of nine mammal species assessed since 1998 their abundance has also declined by 9%. 

In 2018 the wildcat was declared functionally extinct in Scotland, though conservation efforts using captive-bred genetically pure animals continue. 

The pine marten however has made a strong return in both abundance and distribution in recent years.

Overall the 143 species of birds assessed in Scotland appear broadly stable on average. Looking at specific bird groups, however, reveals a more complex picture.

Scotland’s globally significant seabird populations have undergone very substantial declines over the last 30 years. 

While the monitoring period is shorter – running from 1986 to the most recent estimate in 2016 – the average numbers of 12 species of breeding seabirds have declined by 38%. Surface feeding birds like kittiwake, or species that depend on them to find prey, such as Arctic skua, have been particularly affected, with major declines of 72% and 77% respectively.

Invasive, non-native species and pollution are also a problem. Despite welcome recent efforts to improve how people move and release non-native species, and how we respond once they establish, they continue to arrive and spread in key Scottish habitats.

Jo Pike, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, added: “This report clearly sets out the grave threats to Scotland’s wildlife. Nearly half of the country’s species have declined, and more than one in 10 are threatened with extinction.

We cannot afford for these trends to continue, particularly in a climate emergency.

“While time is running out to reverse biodiversity loss we must also recognise positive action is possible. Thousands of people and organisations – from volunteers and community groups to farmers, land managers, businesses and many others – are already working across Scotland to make a difference.”