A report assessing which of Scotland’s protected geological features are at risk from climate change was published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The report, possibly for the first time, analyses important geological and geomorphological features on all legally protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Scotland.

The researchers found that 97% of sites are in a favourable condition currently, with 73% at relatively low risk when it comes to climate change. However, 17% could be at moderate risk and 10% could be at high risk from climate change impacts. These impacts include increased erosion, coastal flooding, changes in rainfall and storm frequency and intensity, changes in vegetation cover, and reduced freezing of the ground in winter.

The report develops a risk-based way of assessing future impacts of climate change on geological and geomorphological (landscape) features in Scotland. The assessment involves a combination of current understanding of how climate change will affect the features, as well as the knowledge of the characteristics of geological and geomorphological features in Scotland. This is a new approach and could be adapted to apply elsewhere, both in the UK and abroad, in the future.

The results of this report will feed into the Scottish Government’s second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme. It is hope that this will help identify the consequences of climate change for all protected areas in Scotland and put in place mitigation or adaptation measures. The work was undertaken as part of a wider ClimateXChange project dealing with these issues, which are highlighted as actions in the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme.