Scotland must step up efforts or risk missing global biodiversity targets, say environmental charities

22 May 2018

In response to the publication of the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) 2017 report on Scotland’s progress towards the 2020 Aichi Targets on biodiversity, Scottish Environment LINK members urge Scottish Government to step up efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

Out of the 20 targets that Scotland is committed to meeting in less than two years, only 7 are on track. For 12 targets progress is insufficient and “unless we increase our efforts the target[s] will not be met by [the] deadline”, according to the report. The remaining critical target that tracks financial resources available, which are key to delivering many of the other targets, is falling, meaning that we are moving away from the target. The report highlights that “total funding figures for most of the Scottish organisations that have some biodiversity remit have also declined in the last 5 years”.

Commenting on behalf of Scottish Environment LINK members:

Charles Dundas, Scottish Environment LINK Chair said: “With almost 1 in 10 species in Scotland at risk of extinction, biodiversity loss is happening at our doorstep. We simply cannot afford to repeat history and miss the 2020 deadline, as happened in 2010. We call on Scottish Government and SNH to refocus efforts ahead of 2020 and to consider strategic opportunities for more effective action beyond 2020. Our members are ready to engage in a constructive way and help support an ambitious path forward for the protection of our natural environment.”

Craig Macadam, Scottish Environment LINK Vice-Chair and Wildlife Subgroup Convenor added: “The SNH report findings reveal a very mixed picture of our progress towards meeting the Aichi Targets. Our members are involved in the delivery of many of the projects that contribute towards halting biodiversity loss, but with diminishing financial resources available for conservation work, our environment, already vulnerable due to climate change and other human activities, will suffer.”

Contact details

Craig Macadam, LINK Wildlife Subgroup Convenor:

or Daphne Vlastari, LINK Advocacy Manager:, 0131 225 4345

Editors’ Notes

(1)  Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with over 35 member bodies representing a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society. /

LINK is a Scottish Charity (SC000296) and a Scottish Company Limited by guarantee (SC250899). LINK is core funded by Membership Subscriptions and by grants from Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government and Charitable Trusts.

(2) Scotland’s Biodiversity Progress to 2020 Aichi Targets Interim Report 2017 is available here:

(3) On 26 March 2018, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), described as the “IPCC for biodiversity”, released the results of the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade, written by more than 500 experts from over 100 countries. It concluded that such is the rate of decline that the risks posed by biodiversity loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change. Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people. This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere. For more information about IPBES and its assessments visit

(4) In a report developed in 2016 by a coalition of 53 wildlife organisations, many of which are members of Scottish Environment LINK, it was revealed that almost one in ten Scottish species are at risk of extinction.

The State of Nature 2016: Scotland highlights that there is grave concern particularly for some species including more than half of vascular plants, such as juniper, and 39% of butterflies. There are also serious concerns for a quarter of Scotland’s birds including upland species such as dotterel and curlew, and seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes.

The State of Nature report confirms that our nature is facing great pressures from land-use change while climate change and human activities are having a particular impact on internationally important marine habitats and species, resulting in declines and alterations to species’ distributions and community composition.

What is more, Scotland’s Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) is 81.3% when values under 90% indicate that “ecosystems may have fallen below the point at which they can reliably meet society’s needs” (Hayhow et al., 2016: 3). Scotland ranks in the bottom fifth of all 218 countries analysed; 36th from the bottom.

This level of degradation reflects historical losses that took place in the course of the 20th century and further back. Given the significant losses that we have already incurred in Scotland, it is of paramount importance that we work to safeguard and enhance our environment going forward. Indeed, still today we are working to redress errors of the past such as: i) Commercial afforestation and drainage resulted in the loss of 44% of Scotland’s blanket peat bog between the 1940s and the 1980s; ii) Although grasslands cover around one-quarter of Scotland, after decades of human intervention less than 1% of this is semi-natural. Between the 1940s and 1980s, the area of broadleaved and mixed woodland fell by 23% and 37% respectively, and native Caledonian pine forests now cover less than 90,000 hectares – just over 6% of the original area.

The importance of nature in Scotland is apparent, not just in terms of natural and cultural wealth but also the economic benefits it brings: 14% of jobs are supported by the natural environment.


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