1.1 What is Biodiversity and why is it important?
Biodiversity is the web of life. It is the variety of all living things and the ecosystems where they live (on land or in water). It comprises the living organisms in a particular space, whether in a window-box, garden, park, meadow, peatland, river, loch, estuary, ocean, beach or mountain top.
Biodiversity, Nature And Natural Capital
These terms are often used interchangeably but they are not precisely the same. In this document:
Biodiversity refers to the variability among living organisms within terrestrial, marine and aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes they are part of. This includes diversity within species, between species and across ecosystems.
Nature includes biodiversity, geodiversity and the natural elements of our landscapes and seascapes. It encompasses all the underpinning features and forces that have continued since the Earth was formed from summit to seabed including rocks, landforms, soils and processes like weather systems. Nature has shaped our history, culture and identity. The best way to truly understand the importance of biodiversity is to imagine what nature would be like without it.
Natural Capital is a concept that recognises Nature as a valuable asset which provides a stock and flows of ecosystem services (for example clean air, carbon storage, flood management, food production and recreational opportunities). Collectively these underpin and benefit our society and economy. Framing the natural environment in this way emphasises the need to invest in, and manage, this asset within safe environmental limits.
"Nature is our home… Good economics demands we manage it better. We are part of nature, not separate from it."
The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review
Biodiversity inspires people. It has enormous value in its own right but is also central to our survival as a species. Our economy, jobs, health and wellbeing depend on it and it is an integral part of our culture and way of life. More than half of the world's GDP (US$44 trillion) is thought to be dependent on nature in some way. Yet humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants.
Biodiversity supports food production and security through insect pollination in farming and horticulture and our fishing industry, which depends on resilient and productive seas. It provides the blueprint for many modern medicines and contributes to our wellbeing, providing recreation, relaxation and a sense of place. Healthy biodiversity protects soil from eroding, purifies water and helps prevent and mitigate flooding.
We face twin reinforcing crises: a decline in biodiversity will exacerbate the climate crisis – and a changing climate will accelerate the rate of biodiversity loss.
The role biodiversity plays in addressing and mitigating the impact of climate change is vital. Globally, when they are functioning well, ocean and land ecosystems remove around 50% of human-made carbon dioxide emissions each year. The more the world warms however, the more stress will be placed on ecosystems, triggering feedback loops that will accelerate warming and extreme weather events. Protecting and regenerating biodiversity is the best chance we have to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
1.2 Why do we need a biodiversity strategy?
We are at a critical juncture. Our failure to address the mutually reinforcing twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change is already impacting on our economy, society and wider wellbeing.
The strategy sets out a nature positive vision for Scotland – one where biodiversity is regenerating and underpinning a healthy and thriving economy and society and playing a key role in addressing climate change. The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy will sit alongside Scotland's Climate Change Plan and, through developing and driving investment in nature based solutions, will play a significant role in delivering our commitment to Net Zero. In its own right, it sets out how we will protect and regenerate biodiversity to ensure the sustainable flow of ecosystem services on which we all depend. The strategy also speaks to the huge economic and social opportunities regenerating our biodiversity will bring – in terms of new investment, new job opportunities for communities and our overall health and wellbeing.
The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy is for everyone – large corporate players, small businesses, land managers, non-government organisations and Scotland's communities and citizens whose decisions in everyday lives as producers and consumers have an impact on biodiversity. Only by coming together to deliver transformational change in the way we use and manage our resources can we avoid irreversible damage to biodiversity.
1.3 The international context
Globally there is increasing consensus on the urgency of tackling the biodiversity crisis. The UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration was launched in 2020 with the aim of preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. Through the Leaders' Pledge for Nature, world leaders have committed to reversing nature loss by 2030 and delivering a nature positive world. Nature Positive means reversing the downward curve of biodiversity loss so that levels of biodiversity are once again increasing, bending the curve of biodiversity loss. The Scottish Government signed the Leaders' Pledge for Nature at the UNFCCC's 26th Conference of Parties (COP26), held in Glasgow.
A Nature Positive Scotland by 2030
Scotland is fully committed to implementing international obligations and participates actively in international multilateral fora, supporting the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the development of the Global Biodiversity Framework (Annex 1). Scotland is also committed to implementing key regional agreements such as the Bern Convention and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment in the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), as well as to maintaining or exceeding European Union (EU) environmental standards.
1.4 Scotland's strategic context
Delivering a nature positive future for Scotland requires a multi-sectoral, whole of society approach. Key policies and strategies increasingly recognise the fundamental importance of biodiversity to achieving broader environmental, economic and social objectives. There is a significant and unique opportunity to leverage a key set of policy levers:
- Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation sets out a vision that by 2032 Scotland will be a wellbeing economy – an economic system which serves the collective wellbeing of current and future generations within safe ecological limits, placing people and the planet at its core. Underpinning this is a commitment to work across society to deliver lasting action that secures a just transition ensuring that economic change is managed in a way that is fair for all
- The Environment Strategy for Scotland creates the overarching framework for Scotland's strategies and plans on the environment and climate change. It contains six outcomes including
"Scotland's nature is protected and restored with flourishing biodiversity and clean and healthy air, water, seas and soils."
- The Climate Change Plan sets out policies and proposals up to 2032 as part of the journey to the net zero target by 2045 with a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030. Nature-based solutions such as woodland creation and peatland restoration will reduce emissions and help us adapt to the impacts of climate change in line with Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Programme
- The 'Delivering Scotland's Circular Economy – route map to 2025 and beyond' consultation recognises the need to ensure the range of actions we are undertaking are both complementary and coordinated as part of our overall efforts to tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss
- Scotland's Blue Economy vision states that 'By 2045 Scotland's shared stewardship of our marine environment supports ecosystem health, improved livelihoods, economic prosperity, social inclusion and wellbeing.' This means marine, and inter-linked freshwater and coastal environments are restored, adapted and resilient to climate change and sustainably managed to achieve good environmental status
- Scotland's Vision for Agriculture outlines our aim to transform how we support farming and food production in Scotland to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. We will work with and support farmers and crofters to meet more of our own food needs sustainably and to farm and croft with nature
- Scotland's forthcoming land reform bill seeks to reform the way Scotland's land is used and managed to ensure greater benefit to communities and the environment
- Forests and woodlands deliver a rich mixture of benefits, contributing to our economy and providing jobs, helping make Scotland a zero carbon economy. The 2070 Vision for Forestry sets out how we will have more forests and woodlands, sustainably managed and better integrated with other land uses
- NPF4 (The National Planning Framework) is a long-term plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed, in a way that safeguards nature and gives all of Scotland's people access to the wellbeing it provides
The remainder of this Strategy is set out as follows:
- Chapter 2 Sets out the evidence of biodiversity loss and the drivers of loss in Scotland
- Chapter 3 Sets out the Strategy's Vision, the Outcomes we need to see if the Vision is to be achieved, and the Key Actions we need to take to deliver the Outcomes
- Chapter 4 Sets out the Conditions for Success which need to be put in place to support the successful delivery of the Outcomes
- Chapter 5 Sets out how we will measure the effectiveness of our actions
Case Study: Deadwood Management in Scotland's National Forests
Many species of birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals forage, shelter and rear young in and around deadwood and veteran trees, and these are even more valuable for a range of insects (especially beetles), fungi and lichens. Deadwood is also vitally important for species in aquatic ecosystems. Standing trees that are dying or dead (called snags), decaying logs and small pieces of deadwood on the forest floor are vital for forest biodiversity and are maintained whenever possible.
Supporting Scotland's Vision for Forestry, Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) work hard to enhance biodiversity adding thousands of tonnes of new deadwood across Scotland's national forest each year, which provides habitat for hundreds of generalist and specialist species. They focus on increasing the provision and retention of scarce types of deadwood, such as large-diameter snags and logs, keeping deadwood in woodland during tree harvesting operations, leaving dead or dying veteran trees and logs on-site, and creating piles of deadwood.
FLS have been working with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project, to create specific deadwood habitat for rare species, including the endangered pine hoverfly, one of the rarest species in Scotland. Previously thriving in pinewoods across the country, it currently can only be found at one or two sites due to a lack of suitable deadwood habitat for its larvae which develop and feed in the water that collects in rot-holes in Scots pine stumps. In 2022, this conservation management resulted in adult hoverfly being spotted in the wild for the first time in nearly a decade.
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