Theoretically, the initial government support and scientific evidence is in place. In 2017, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it was 95% certain that humans are the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s with a warming trend only projected to continue. The Smithsonian reports “Scientists agree that today’s extinction rate is hundreds, or even thousands, of times higher than the natural baseline rate (of one species per million species per year).” Now biodiversity protection and conservation are on the agenda of the Scottish and UK governments as well as globally via the UN’s Aichi agreement.
But actual change that mitigates ecological damage needs to be done at the grass roots and on a large scale, through the adoption of agri-environmental practice, and sustainable aquaculture, for example. Plus we need collective pressure on the government and businesses to maintain incentives and support for habitat restoration. And for all that we need education. Only 10% of the UK population are highly engaged with the threat to biodiversity whereas inversely 37% were not at all aware that biodiversity was under threat in the UK [UK Biodiversity Indicators 2019].
Scotland alone holds approximately 90,000 different animal, flora and microbial species. One good example on Islay is Lindenburg’s featherwort (Adelanthus lindenbergianus), recorded on Islay’s biggest hill, Beinn Bheigier. It’s an extraordinarily sensitive bryophyte – which is an order of ‘lower plants’ that embraces mosses and liverworts. Despite their meek status, these plants are good at nutrient recycling, maintaining soil moisture, initiating oil formation, and as bioindicators – meaning they reveal something else about the ecosystem. This bryophyte is not normally to be found in the northern hemisphere so its genetics are intriguing for it to appear here. It has been recorded in one other area on neighbouring Jura and has been documented in Ireland but is in decline there. Otherwise is only appears in Costa Rica, Patagonia, Madagascar, and South Georgia. This has lead to Lindenberg’s featherwort being named within an IPA (Important Plant Area) on Islay. This area designation is part of a brilliant data-sharing programme but at the moment this potentially threatened natural area is not offered additional physical protection.
It’s significance, in the words of a Plantlife: “We know that ecosystems with more species in them are more resilient, and can withstand changes better. When seen as a component part of a fantastically diverse ecosystem, Lindenberg’s featherwort takes on a special importance, and we can’t honestly say what the effects would be if we lose any one species from a complex system.”