CONSERVATION organisations have joined forces to call for tougher action on climate change to stop further damage to Scotland’s natural and built heritage.

WWF Scotland, National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and RSPB Scotland warned that animals, plants and even buildings are under attack as a result of the effects of global warming, from severe weather to sea level rises and acidification.

The organisations are calling for the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Climate Change Bill to be “world leading” to help combat the decline.

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director at WWF Scotland, said: “We need to make sure that our heritage is as resilient as possible, but the most important thing we can do is cut our emissions radically as part of a global effort.

“Over the coming months we have a great opportunity to make sure Scotland’s new Climate Change Bill is a world leader and sets a clear target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

The National Trust for Scotland said wetter summers and milder winters were increasing the saturation of historic properties from rainfall and groundwater, driving up conservation costs. Bryan Dickson, head of buildings conservation policy, said: “The effects we are seeing on our historic buildings and gardens provide a warning sign.

“It is a constant battle to protect, maintain access to and understand what a changing climate might mean for the places we not only value, but also rely on as part of our tourism industry and as a significant aspect of our cultural heritage.”

RSPB Scotland described climate change as “an insidious pressure on Scotland’s beleaguered seabirds”.

Marine policy officer Peadar O’Connell said: “Waters around Scotland are warming fast and this affects the marine flora and fauna that can survive here.

“Declines of more than 70 per cent in the populations of kittiwakes and Arctic skuas, for example, have been linked to impacts of climate change through declines in the abundance of the fish they rely on to feed their chicks.

“Based on climate change predictions, unless we act, the future could see further declines and even the extinction of some of Scotland’s most iconic seabirds.”

Professor J Murray Roberts, chair in applied marine biology and ecology at Edinburgh University, highlighted research showing the impact of ocean acidification on the marine environment.

He said: “Scotland’s seas are rich in deep-sea reefs built by cold-water corals. As the oceans become increasingly acidic, the limestone skeletons at the base of these corals start to dissolve and new coral skeletons become weaker. The oceans have already absorbed a quarter of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. This has helped reduce the impact of global warming but comes at a massive cost to marine ecosystems.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to tackling the effects of climate change and have increased investment in our draft Budget 2018-19 for projects to tackle climate change and for research into the impacts.

“Our newly-launched dynamic coast tool is mapping out where changes along our coast will impact on existing infrastructure and heritage sites, causing significant environ- mental change and damage. The maps will support Sepa’s next national flood risk assessment which will be published in 2018.

“Our climate targets are already the most ambitious in the UK and our proposals for our Climate Change Bill will set long-term targets in direct response to the Paris Agreement.”