Why Scotland's Nature Is Special
Scotland has a long history of love for, and fascination with, our natural heritage. This has provided us with world-renowned information about the changing fortunes of all types of nature. As the birthplace of the science of geology, our rocks, soils and landforms create our unique landscapes and habitats, and sustain a variety of ecosystems.
Scotland sits on the western edge of Europe, where continental and Atlantic climates meet the warm Gulf Stream – giving us the cool, wet and windy 'oceanic' climate so characteristic of our country. It is this relationship between landform and climate that has largely created the nature we have today. We have more than 125,000 km of rivers and streams (enough to straddle the earth three times), more than 30,000 freshwater lochs, a 220 km canal network, a highly intricate coastline 18,000 km long, extensive mountain ranges and over 900 islands. Scotland's seas make up an area six times the size of the land area and together they support around 90,000 species. The Scottish network of marine protected areas now safeguards 37% of our seas. Indeed, our seas are incredibly rich in natural capital, alongside Norway forming the richest fishing grounds, and having one of the largest kelp forests, in Europe.
Scotland is home to 45% of Europe's breeding seabirds and the Bass Rock is the largest colony of northern gannets in the world. Large populations of wintering waders and wildfowl and 37% of the world population of grey seals are in Scotland. We also hold much of the world's population of freshwater pearl mussels, and significant populations of powan and vendace.
We hold 13% of the world's blanket bog and the Flow Country is the best peatland of its type in the world. We have over 30,000 hectares of 'Atlantic rainforest' – oaks and hazel wood supporting huge numbers of mosses, liverworts, ferns and lichens. Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve was recently declared the first genetic reserve in the UK to help ensure we maintain the distinctiveness of our Scots pine and other species.
The moorland landscape is distinctive in character and extent, and we have recently announced significant proposals for improving its sustainable management.
Much of our special biodiversity is found in statutory protected areas, with 23% of terrestrial and inland water areas (including our two National Parks) and 37% of marine areas brought under site protection, and almost 80% of designated features in favourable or recovering condition.
These are among the 'jewels in the crown' – rare, sometimes endangered, and globally significant – and it is important they are not held in isolation from the rest of the countryside. Indeed, the biodiversity supported outwith protected areas can be equally important and critical to sustaining the special nature of Scotland.
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