Highlands & Islands

Climate change affecting Scotland's plants, SNH says

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has said it has found evidence that climate change is affecting native wild plant life in parts of Scotland.

The agency said natural vegetation was in decline in the north west Highlands because invasive species were spreading due to warmer, drier conditions.

SNH looked at records of local biology going back 50 years.

Prof Des Thompson said the Highlands had some of the world's best examples of upland habitats.

Climate change, grazing by animals and acidification have been blamed for what SNH said was a "widespread loss of variety" in plant communities on mountains.

The principal advisor on biodiversity for SNH said: "When you go to continental Europe there is very clear evidence of climate change, with the tree line moving up mountains in response to temperature changes.

"In Britain to date we have had very little evidence. This is quite literally one of the first signs of climate influences on vegetation."

Prof Thompson said the Highlands were a "stronghold" for heather moorland habitat.

Recently published reports, commissioned by SNH, have flagged up concerns for plant life.

It has included suggestions that fragile blanket bog and heath growing near Ben Hope - Scotland's most northerly Munro - were being threatened because of trampling by deer and sheep.

Wild rabbits were also identified as causing erosion and eating rare upland plants on the Trotternish Ridge on Skye.

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