New discoveries are being made in nature all the time. Last year, scientists in California unearthed 133 new species including Dracula ants, a lantern shark and an armoured lizard endemic to Angola, to name a few. And even though we're only a few months into 2017, seven new frogs have already been discovered in India - four of them smaller than a thumbnail - and a new species of gibbon has been found living in the rainforests of south-west China. Biodiversity scientists estimate we are aware of less than 10% of the species inhabiting our planet, but it's amazing what can be found if only we are willing to look for it.
We are learning about life on Earth all the time because we are exploring new habitats, looking for unknown species of plants, mammals, birds and amphibians, and finding out as much as we can about them. But what about the people who are fighting to save nature? We should be looking for them too.
Scotland is full of wildlife heroes; people who are dedicated to conserving and enhancing the planet, for all of us to enjoy. Across the country, these champions of nature are protecting threatened species and habitats, building green spaces in local communities, campaigning for positive political change to benefit the environment and connecting more children to the natural world. However, you may not get to know who they are or find out about the vital work they're doing unless someone shines a light on it.
That's why, each year, RSPB Scotland launches a search for the brightest, most enthusiastic and hard-working unsung heroes of wildlife conservation through the Nature of Scotland Awards. We want to celebrate and share the inspirational work they're doing, while encouraging even more people to get involved with saving nature.
The awards opened for entry on March 13 and the RSPB is inviting applications from community groups, schools, individuals, politicians, businesses, teachers, conservationists, wildlife tourist attractions, the farming community and other organisations with a strong commitment to the environment. If you, or someone you know, is doing great things for nature then we want to hear about it!
In previous years our wildlife champions have included the creators of community gardens, schools that are championing nature in the classroom and in the school grounds, businesses that are backing conservation action and projects established to protect red squirrels, black grouse and white-tailed eagles.
For 2017, we are replacing the Politician of the Year Award with a new Political Advocate of the Year Award which is open to any individual who has had a significant impact on public policy to the benefit of nature. We are also bringing back the Marine Conservation Award which will recognise an outstanding contribution to the protection of Scotland's seas and the species that rely on them. In total there are nine categories available for entry: RSPB Species Champion, Marine Conservation, Political Advocate of the Year, Corporate, Youth and Education, Innovation, Community Initiative, Food and Farming, and Nature Tourism.
So, what are you waiting for? Nominate someone who is making an inspirational contribution to Scotland's precious wildlife and wild spaces today - or submit your own project and tell us what you're doing to save nature. Let's celebrate the achievements of our wildlife heroes together.
The Nature of Scotland Awards shortlist will be unveiled at a Parliamentary Reception in September and the winners will be announced at a special Presentation Dinner in November. Get more information and submit your application at www.rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland