Climate Ready Clyde
Risk and Opportunity

Natural Environment

Natural Environment


Glasgow City Region contains a wide variety of landscapes, habitats and ecosystems within its boundaries. This natural environment contributes to the wellbeing and prosperity of the region, but is already under pressure from human activity. 

Land use change, habitat fragmentation, introduced species, pests and diseases, pollution and urban sprawl have already led to shifts in the species that are able to flourish in our woodlands, coastal areas, rivers and greenspaces. Climate change puts even greater pressure on the natural environment in the Glasgow City Region. 

Each landscape and the ecosystems it supports face unique challenges as a result of climate change, and these threats and impacts are often still not well understood. Environmental changes already being seen in the form higher air and water temperatures and more extreme and erratic weather are interacting with other pressures to weaken our natural systems and comprise their ability to continue supporting us.

Key climate related risks and opportunities 

Climate change will affect the city region’s natural environment in a number of ways:

  • Depleting soil stock and impairing soil function due to changes in temperature and water regime. Warmer temperatures, water logging and high river flows may lead to reductions in soil organic matter (SOM) and soil structural integrity. This may reduce productivity (forestry and agriculture) and increase the risk of erosion and landslides. Soil health has serious implications for other parts of the natural environment e.g. water quality, forests and carbon sequestration.

  • Changing land suitability for forestry and agriculture. As the temperature rises and the climate becomes drier, the crops and tree species that can be grown in the Glasgow City Region will change. This change will depend on numerous factors, making predictions difficult.

  • Ocean acidification, due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, will make our seas less hospitable for marine life, particularly those with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons. As well as the serious implications this will have for the marine ecosystem, it could also be detrimental to shellfish fisheries in the region.

  • Rising water temperatures in rivers, lochs and the sea will affect the suitability of the habitat for some species. Cold adapted species may move north. Some species may be limited in their ability to migrate.

  • As sea levels rise, coastal habitats and landforms such as beaches, saltmarshes and mudflats will be significantly altered and/or may disappear due to coastal erosion. This is exacerbated by ‘coastal squeeze’ i.e. coastal developments inhibit the potential for coastal habitats to shift further up the shore, as the coast is eroded.

  • Changing temperature and rainfall patterns, which, in turn, will alter the composition of plant communities and habitats. Some species may shift to cooler areas, but some may not be able to. Some species and habitats may disappear from the region as a result.

  • Invasive and non-native species are a threat to terrestrial and aquatic environments. Species adapted to warmer conditions may now be able to establish in the region and proliferate. If this happens they can outcompete or predate native and productive species, as well has damaging infrastructure (particularly in marine environments).

  • Increasing the likelihood and severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, storms and floods. Such events will have serious consequences for industries such as agriculture, forestry and aquaculture, which are closely linked to the natural environment. Wildlife will also struggle to adapt to an increasingly erratic and extreme weather system.

  • Affecting nationally and internationally important geoheritage sites due to flooding and erosion, and coastal, vegetation, freeze-thaw and rainfall change. 


Use our interactive index to navigate to relevant information based on particular climate hazards, risks, sectors, and actions.


Next steps to creating a climate-resilient natural environment

  • Developing more localised evidence to support decision making on adaptation in relation to the range of risks outlined above.

  • Ensuring key risks and principles of climate adaptation is incorporated into existing and future relevant plans and strategies that affect the city region, such as the forthcoming refresh of the River Basin Management Plan and Regional Marine Plan.

  • Generally building understanding and increasing capacity of stakeholders in relation to the risks and opportunities relating to functioning of the natural environment