Spiders, bees, grasshoppers, snails and other creepy-crawlies are top of the bill at an International nature conference taking place in Scotland this week.
Wildlife specialists and project managers from across the European Union (EU) are meeting in Stirling for a two-day event we are hosting in partnership with the EU’s EcoCo LIFE project, to discuss the best ways to help our most threatened invertebrates.
Invertebrates are all animals with no backbone and they make up around 98% of animal life. They perform many vitally important functions. As well as pollinating our crops and wild flowers, they turn natural waste into fertile soil, for example, and they are an essential food source for birds, fish and other animals.
The conference – ‘Bringing bugs back to LIFE’ – brings together conservationists from most EU member states who are working on 27 LIFE projects across Europe. The EU’s LIFE funding programme supports environment and nature conservation projects. EcoCo is short for ‘ecological coherence’, which tries to connect fragmented habitats. EcoCo LIFE projects focus on improving ecological coherence through habitat restoration and creation and SNH is the lead partner for EcoCo LIFE Scotland.
Angus Campbell, SNH deputy chair, opened the conference and welcomed delegates to Scotland. Angus said: “We are delighted that Scotland and the EcoCo LIFE project have been selected to host this important event. Invertebrates are a critical part of the complex and interdependent ecosystems and food chains in all habitats, and it is important that a clear focus is given to them.
“Invertebrates are also a source of great fascination, with incredible lifecycles and lifestyles, and there is so much more to be understood about them and how they contribute to the web of life. There have recently been media reports of massive declines in flying insects, pesticide threats to bees and other pollinators and aquatic invertebrates having ingested plastic particles. So it is timely that the LIFE programme has chosen this time to hold this event.”
In Scotland, some of our invertebrates are found nowhere else in the world, such as the northern February red stonefly, the long-nosed weevil Protapion ryei and the beetle Anaspis septentrionalis. For others, such as the pinewood mason bee and the chequered skipper butterfly, Scotland provides a last stronghold within the UK. On land and in fresh water alone, it’s thought Scotland could be home to around 50,000 species, with thousands more in our seas.
Invertebrates though are at risk from climate change, from pollution and from damage to, or loss of habitat. ‘Bringing bugs back to LIFE’ will include talks and presentations from specialists working on invertebrate projects, and field visits to Scottish EcoCo LIFE projects at Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve. Workshops will allow attendees to share experience, expertise and ideas to work out how to encourage more projects that focus on how to help these often forgotten creatures.
We recently launched ‘A Pollinator Strategy for Scotland’. As in other countries, Scotland’s pollinators are a vital part of our biodiversity. Species such as bees and hoverflies are a familiar sight in our gardens, parks and countryside and they play a crucial role in our food and farming industries, as well as contributing to our enjoyment of the outdoors and our health and well-being.
But our wild pollinators are under threat. Faced with pressures that include habitat fragmentation, changes in land use, disease, pesticides and climate change they need our help. The pollinator strategy is just one example of work we are engaged in to help our invertebrates and you can read more about it here.