In celebration of Scotland’s precious wetlands, ahead of World Wetlands Day 2020 a members’ business debate led by John Finnie MSP, took place in the Scottish Parliament on the 15th January to discuss the importance of Scotland’s wetlands as sites of important biodiversity. The climate emergency poses an existential threat to the future of Scotland’s wetlands which not only provide us with a host of essential systems we cannot live without, such as vital flood control and water filtration, but also a unique home for a wide variety of mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2nd February in order to mark the date of the adoption of the Convention of Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, which was signed in 1971. The Convention’s mission is to conserve wetlands through local and national actions as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development and protecting biodiverse habitats.
This debate offered MSP Species Champions the opportunity to discuss the importance of wetlands in relation to their species’ habitat, in the Scottish Parliament chamber.
Gillian Martin MSP spoke of the coastal wetland region the Ythan estuary, where the dune ecosystem is under threat. The Ythan estuary is also home to the grey seal, for which she is the Species Champion. Gillian Martin explained how the number of grey seals has now increased to over 1,000 due to protected seal haul-out zones which protect the seals from any reckless or intentional harassment, especially during pupping season. Out and about, Gillian Martin has involved herself in raising debate about the seals, in beach cleans, and with meeting constituents who are concerned about the estuary.
The MSP Species Champion for the natterjack toad, Emma Harper MSP, talked about the importance of Mersehead Nature Reserve and Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve as extensive wetland and salt marsh areas. Both of these nature reserves are part of just a few locations in Scotland where the natterjack toad can be found. Wetlands are vital to the dune system and to the continued survival of the natterjack toad which depends on the dune pool habitats to survive. Emma Harper underlined the importance of protecting wetlands both to support biodiversity and to provide a habitat for endangered species such as the natterjack toad to avoid extinction.
The Species Champions initiative allows MSPs, such as Gillian Martin and Emma Harper to engage with and visit their species, to keep up to date on relevant conservation work and to stand up for their species in parliament. Over 100 MSPs have signed up to be champions for a range of animal and plant species, with more information available here.
Species Champion Coordinator at Scottish Environment Link