Skip to main content

08 March, 2018

World-first report on how climate change impacts Scotland’s geology

A report assessing which of Scotland’s protected geological features are at risk from climate change was published today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The report, believed to be a world-first, analysed 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.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said: “This new tool will help to identify the risk of climate change in some of our most precious sites which is crucial so we can understand what we need to do to adapt and adjust to the impact of climate change.

Kath Leys, SNH’s Ecosystems & Biodiversity unit manager, said:

“This report will be a great tool to help us, the Scottish Government and our partners make plans to combat the effects of climate change on Scotland’s geology and landforms. There are over 850 nationally and internationally important geological and geomorphological features in Scotland and this ground-breaking research will help protect them.”

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. 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.

To read the full report, see


MEDIA QUERIES - for more information, contact SNH media & PR officer, Vicki Mowat on or 0131 316 2659 (Tues-Fri) or the SNH main press office in Inverness on 01463 725 022.

1. Dunnet Links, Caithness: active sand dunes where sand eroding from the front of the dunes and blowing inland threatens the coast road. The recommendation is for SNH, the highway authority and local council to discuss natural management solutions to coastal erosion. (Photo: Rachel Wignall/SNH).

2. Eathie Fishing Station, by Cromarty: Fossils exposed only at low tide may become inaccessible due to rising sea levels. It may be possible to record the fossils for posterity and rescue of material to an appropriate archive collection. (Photo: Rachel Wignall/SNH).

3. River Feshie, Cairngorms National Park: a dynamic gravel-bed river likely to move or spread and affect infrastructure within the margins of its floodplain. Recommended actions are to allow space for channel migration, flooding and debris flows and long-term monitoring, with no further river bank or other engineering. (Photo: Lorne Gill/SNH).

Contact information

Vicki Mowat
Job Title
Media relations lead for biodiversity
0131 3162659

Notes to editors

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at . SNH media is also on Twitter at 

ClimateXChange is Scotland's centre of expertise on climate change, providing a research, advice and analysis service to Scottish Government policy teams and associated public agencies. Researchers in 14 of Scotland's leading research and higher education institutions are members of ClimateXChange. For more information, visit   
Scottish Government, 2014. Climate Ready Scotland: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme. Scottish Government, Edinburgh. ISBN 9781784124748. Available at:

Site Condition Monitoring data for SSSIs are available online through SEWeb at

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

’S e NatureScot buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Bidh sinn a’ neartachadh àrainneachd na h-Alba agus a’ brosnachadh dhaoine gu barrachd suim a chur ann an nàdar. Tha e mar phrìomhachas againn gum bi nàdar na h-Alba beairteach agus gun dèilig sinn gu h-èifeachdach le èiginn na gnàth-shìde. Tha an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh aig no air Twitter aig


Climate change geology report - River Feshie - image

Climate change geology report - River Feshie - image

View | Download

Climate change geology report - Eathie Fishing Station - image

Climate change geology report - Eathie Fishing Station - image

View | Download

Climate change geology report - Dunnet Links - image

Climate change geology report - Dunnet Links - image

View | Download