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Foreword by Michael Usher and Des Thompson

Scotland's biodiversity science: uniquely special and leading edge Image by Laurie Campbell…

Foreword by Michael Usher and Des Thompson

Scotland’s biodiversity science: uniquely special and leading edge

Scotland and its surrounding seas support about 90,000 native species, many of which form communities and assemblages uniquely special and distinctive. Whilst this represents considerably less than 1% of our planet’s complement of species, Scotland is held in the highest regard for its care, management and understanding of nature. In fact, being part of an island, and positioned so far north, Scotland is much richer in plants, animals and their communities than might be expected. We should not be surprised, therefore, to see Scotland so rich in opportunities to research and enjoy the myriad wonders of our natural environment. Call it what you will, some of the world’s best fieldwork, experiments, laboratory studies and detailed investigations are carried out on land and at sea in Scotland.

In October 2010, at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, the majority of the world’s governments agreed both the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 nd the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (a set of five goals with 20 targets). The plan provides an overarching framework on biodiversity for the entire UN, and the massive global range of partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development. Here in Scotland, the Government, national agencies, NGOs and the research community have embraced this challenge, and published The 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity in 2013, and two years later Scotland’s Biodiversity: a route map to 2020. Reports to Parliament have followed, with increasing effort devoted to meeting the targets set, and devising even more ambitious plans beyond 2020.

But what of ‘Some touch of Nature’s genial glow’, vividly evoked in ‘Loch Corriskin’ in The Lord of the Isles by Sir Walter Scott? What about the diversity and intricacies of bacteria, fungi, plants, animals and other organisms that come together to form the rich tapestry of land, fresh water and sea? For many of us working in science, it is the excitement of making discoveries, solving puzzles and unearthing the unexpected that really fires the imagination. Unravelling nature’s complexities, surprises, gifts and even long-kept secrets is what really stokes our curiosity and imagination.

Scotland hosts some of the most exciting and innovative biodiversity science in Europe, with much of this drawing on inter-disciplinary and novel techniques, technologies and approaches. For this special issue of Science Scotland, we have spoken to some of the most imaginative and gifted researchers in the country to give you a flavour of the advances being made. The work of well-established and up-and-coming researchers is featured, and we hope, like us, you are enthused, impressed and also proud of what is being done. So much of what is special about Scotland is defined by its natural and cultural heritage. Scientific endeavour and the advancement of knowledge have their roots in the earliest studies of landscape formation and the richness of nature. We believe we are on the cusp of another great scientific adventure, and we urge investment in research and its applications to ensure that our country, and the wider world, is more resilient to the unprecedented changes taking place in modern times.

Michael B. Usher OBE FRSE is one of the founders of biological computation techniques used in ecological studies, was Chief Scientist of Scottish Natural Heritage, works closely with the Council of Europe’s Group of Specialists for the European Diploma for Protected Areas, and is Principal Editor of the Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation books published by Cambridge University Press.

Michael Usher

Des B.A. Thompson FRSE is Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity in Scottish Natural Heritage, and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Field Studies Council, the UK’s leading environmental education charity, encouraging outdoor learning at its 21 field studies centres (including Millport and Kindrogan in Scotland). Des and Michael have collaborated in editing several books on biodiversity, and share a passion for observing wildlife close up, especially in the uplands.

Des Thompson




"Foreword by Michael Usher and Des Thompson". Science Scotland (Issue Twenty-one)
Printed from on 06/07/20 11:50:21 AM

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