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Buglife Scotland

Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera)

Joel Berglund

Scotland has very special and unique invertebrates. Some species are unique to Scotland and many more rely on the country as their stronghold. Conserving important habitats, sites and endangered species is vital work.

Since the publication of 'A Strategy for Scottish Invertebrate Conservation' in 2009, Buglife has been busy working to implement it.

The strategy was launched in Edinburgh on 20th January 2009 by Michael Russell MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and it represents the first national implementation of the European invertebrate strategy. The vision in the strategy is for a Scotland where invertebrates are valued and conserved for their key role in a healthy environment and for their potential to bring people together to better, understand and appreciate the natural world.

Why invertebrates are important for the Scottish economy

Scottish Fishing Industry

The Scottish fishing industry relies on invertebrates like shrimps, prawns, crabs, lobsters and other shellfish such as mussels and oysters which make an important contribution to the economy of coastal communities.

Catches of Langoustine (Norway Lobster or Scampi) contribute £89.3 million to the Scottish economy each year – more than the combined catches of Cod, Haddock and Monkfish. In the pelagic fisheries our important stocks of cod, herring and haddock depend on invertebrates such as krill and copepods for their food.

Freshwater fisheries for game fish contribute over £112 million annually to the Scottish economy. Aquatic invertebrates like stoneflies and mayflies are an essential source of food for such fish.

Ecological services

Invertebrates provide a number of important 'ecological services'. These services are often overlooked until they are damaged or lost. They are usually impossible to replace. One example is crop pollination. Insects are responsible for the pollination of a variety of crops in Scotland. The most significant is the soft fruit industry with the raspberry crop in Scotland worth £52 million annually. The blackcurrant crop is valued at £8 million; however, the associated processing industry is worth an additional £200 million.

Sewage treatment

Invertebrates play an important role in sewage treatment. One of the simplest but most effective treatments for sewage involves passing the effluent over a bed of stones on which a biofilm of bacteria, fungi and algae grow and process the waste. The biofilm attracts, and is ingested by invertebrates including non-biting midges, moth-flies and worms. Altogether these organisms turn the sewage into clean water and an organic sludge that can be used as fertiliser or fuel.

Healthy soil

Earthworms and other soil invertebrates like springtails benefit agriculture by maintaining and improving the structure and aeration of soil by their constant feeding and burrowing. They break down organic matter such as dead leaves and return essential minerals and organic matter to the soil, enabling renewed crop growth.


Tourism – especially ‘eco-tourism' constitutes an important and increasing element of economic activity in Scotland. Much of this is about history and landscape but it is also about wildlife.

Indirectly, invertebrates are important in underpinning the survival of talismanic animals such as Ospreys and Otters.

But there is also an increasing interest in Scotland’s special invertebrate fauna. Certain iconic species such as the Kentish glory moth (Endromis versicolora), Chequered skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) and Mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron) butterflies as well as the many striking dragonflies, beetles and flies of Scotland’s boreal woodlands increasingly attract visitors, not just from within Scotland but also from other parts of the UK and Europe.

You can learn more about the latest discoveries and events in Scottish Invertebrate News, the bi-annual newsletter for people interested in invertebrates in Scotland – whether you are a novice or expert, this is your newsletter.

If you would like to receive a printed copy of 'A Strategy for Scottish Invertebrate Conservation' or you would like more information about the strategy and its implementation then please contact the Scottish Office

Buglife’s work is grant-aided by Scottish Natural Heritage