Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Garden plants: a threat to the environment due to climate change?

Last time Tomos Sion Jones appeared on these pages, he was telling us about an orchid course he was able to attend thanks to a BSBI Training grant

A year on and Tomos has started his PhD and now he wants to reach out to BSBI County Recorders. Over to Tomos: 

"Calling all BSBI Vice-County recorders (VCRs)! I’m a PhD student at the University of Reading, investigating the possible impacts of climate change on the distribution of garden plants and what threat garden plants present to the environment. Most garden plants are expected to have an increasing geographic range in the future. This could be a result of climate change. I’m interested in garden plants which have escaped ‘beyond the garden fence’. In particular, the factors influencing their transition along the introduction-naturalisation-invasion continuum (Richardson et al., 2000):

The introduction-naturalisation-invasion continuum. Red arrows show the transition processes and the black arrows represent the factors that influence the processes. Adapted from Levine et al. (2004:976) and Milbau and Stout (2008: 309).

Proportion of returned VCs 
(excl. the Channel Isles)
Data: OS data © Crown copyright
 and database right (2017)/
© OpenStreetMap contributors (2015).
"The initial element of this project is an online survey for BSBI VCRs. So far I’ve received completed surveys for 18 (of the 152) VCs around Britain and Ireland. The preliminary results from this survey are very interesting - especially on the ‘top five’ garden plants of increasing concern in each VC. That is, garden plants which are showing signs of naturalising or having invasive potential. Some of the results, such as Gunnera spp., are not a surprise. 

"However there are also results that I wasn’t expecting. For example, Narcissus spp., which are often naturalised but I wouldn’t have considered them to be of increasing concern. Also, Cyclamen hederifolium. It was introduced as early as 1597 (Stace and Crawley, 2015) and is a nice example of the ‘time-lag’ that’s often observed between introduction and naturalisation. C. hederifolium has certainly been naturalising recently but does it have invasive potential?

"It’s garden plants such as this that I’ll investigate further using ecological niche modelling. Comparing the climate of a plant’s native range with climate projections for Britain and Ireland will allow me to predict which garden plants might find future climate suitable and have an increased potential to naturalise or invade. 

Cyclamen hederifolium
Image: Meneerke Bloem / CC-BY-SA
"In the survey, VCRs are asked to rank their agreement or disagreement with the statement ‘climate change is exacerbating the impacts of garden plants on native plant species’. Interestingly, only five (27%) of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement. This is much lower than I was expecting as I generally consider climate change as facilitating the transitioning process. However, it’s unexpected responses like this which are important for my project.

"I hope to receive completed surveys for as many VCs as possible so that I can compare the results for different parts of Britain and Ireland. So I encourage all VCRs to complete the survey. Many thanks to those who have already done so! If recording duties are shared for your VC, both VCRs are welcome to complete it. If you would prefer to complete a hard-copy version, please email me with your postal address. You should read the information sheet before starting the survey. The survey will be open until Wednesday, April 4th. If you have any questions, please email me.

"Please note that there’s an error which will affect VCRs for the Channel Isles. I’m afraid you’ll need to select VC 112 Shetlands and leave a note on the survey explaining which of the Channel Isles you’re responsible for.

"I look forward to receiving more responses and sharing the results with the BSBI. I’ll have an exhibit at the next BSBI Exhibition Meeting and results might be used in published research".

Levine, J.M., Adler, P.B. and Yelenik, S.G., 2004. A meta-analysis of biotic resistance to exotic plant invasions. Ecology Letters, 7, pp.975-989.
Milbau, A. and Stout, J.C., 2008. Factors Associated with Alien Plants Transitioning from Casual, to Naturalized, to Invasive. Conservation Biology, 22(2), pp.308-317.
Richardson, D.M. and Pyšek, P., 2012. Naturalization of introduced plants: ecological drivers of biogeographical patterns. New Phytologist, 196, pp.383-396.
Stace and Crawley, 2015. Alien Plants. London: William Collins.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

BSBI trustee celebrates Linnean Society's first female fellows

Sandy (2nd from right) and fellow London botanists
take part in the 2018 New Year Plant Hunt
Image : L. Bersweden
Dr Sandy Knapp, a BSBI trustee, Head of the Algae, Fungi and Plants Division, Dept. of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London and President-elect of the Linnean Society of London, has written an excellent blogpost celebrating the Society's first female fellows. You can read it in full here.

Sandy is an active BSBI member as well as a trustee, a world-class taxonomist and expert in the potato family Solanaceae, a great science communicator and advocate of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

Her blogpost coincides with a meeting the Linnean Society is holding tomorrow 21st March to celebrate its 230th anniversary and the 16 women fellows it voted to elect in 1904.

Sandy was astonished by Roger Horton's
'Fooled by Babington' poster at the
2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting
Image: Waheed Arshad
BSBI has a long history of welcoming both female and male botanists - as this poster displayed at the 2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting and this article in New Journal of Botany point out, female members were exchanging herbarium specimens in the early days of the Botanical Exchange Club/Botanical Society of London, fore-runner of the BSBI

So it seems particularly fitting that the BSBI should applaud Sandy and all our friends and colleagues at the Linnean Society in their endeavours tomorrow to - as Sandy's blogpost says - "celebrate the efforts and successes of female natural historians in documenting and describing the world around us" and "come together and discuss how to expand the diversity in our community to become a catalyst for change".

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

BSBI Irish Spring Conference: updates

Spring Conference 2017, Glasnevin
Image: R. Hodd
A couple of updates to the programme for this year's mouth-watering programme for the BSBI Irish Spring Conference, to be held in Dublin on Saturday 24th March at the National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin.

First of all, the themed walk around the Botanic Garden will be led by none other than Director Matthew Jebb himself, a botanist so eminent that he has his own Wikipedia webpage.

Second, another flash talk has been added to the programme - this one is about the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in Ireland and it will be given by Pauline Campbell.

Viola lactea
Image: M. Porter
And an update to the info we gave you about the BSBI Viola Handbook. You'll remember that the Spring Conference has a bit of a Viola theme, with a talk and a workshop by Mike Porter, lead author on the Viola Handbook. 

We're delighted that Summerfield Books, BSBI's book-seller, will be offering delegates to the conference a chance to buy a copy of the Handbook at the special discount price of £13.43/ 16.39 euros, which will include postage and packaging (you'd normally pay RRP £14.99 + £1.99 P&P!). Conference organiser Maria Long will let all delegates know how they can take advantage of this special offer - many thanks to Summerfield Books for their support!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting: bookings open

Bookings have opened for the BSBI Summer Meeting which this year is being held on the Isle of Man and runs from the 16th to the 23rd of July. 

It's a joint meeting with the British Bryological Society and there will be lots of bryologists attending as well as botanists at all skill levels, so you are really getting two meetings for the price of one! 

As Organiser Jon Shanklin points out in his flyer about the meeting, "the amazing thing about the Isle of Man is that it has a great variety of habitats in a small area". These range from reservoirs to saltmarsh, woodland to coastal heathland. Uncommon plants that you might expect to see include Whorl Grass, Dodder, Royal Fern and Isle of Man Cabbage.  

Accommodation is at King William's College, an independent boarding school on the island - details of the accommodation package and the daytrips planned are all available on Jonathan's flyer on the Summer Meeting webpage.

This meeting is the perfect opportunity to pick up some moss identification skills as well as catching up with fellow botanists so please head over to the webpage and check out what's on offer! The page also has links to several blogposts from previous years' Summer Meetings so you can get a flavour of what goes on at a Summer Meeting and decide whether it appeals to you.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

BSBI Irish Spring Conference: bookings now open

Maria with Lynda Weekes (rush ID
workshop leader),
2017 Irish BSBI Conference
Image: Fiona O'Neill
The Irish BSBI Conference has now become an annual event, taking place in March or April each year in the National BotanicGardens, Glasnevin

It is always a great event, with lots of smiling faces, eager to meet up with friends, old and new, and to get ready and raring to go for the new recording season!

Irish Officer Maria Long said “I just love the Irish BSBI Conference each year. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and there are often last-minute hurdles to negotiate, but every year it has been fun, informative and a joy to organise. 

"I get a real buzz out of seeing all the keen faces, some familiar, some new, but all enjoying the presentations, workshops and events. 

"We are very lucky too to have great support from both the National Botanic Gardens and Teagasc. So it’s a real team effort. 

"This year’s talks and workshops look great – so I really can’t wait for the day!

John Conaghan, Rory Hodd & Jo Denyer
enjoy a walk in the beautiful
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Image courtesy of J. Denyer
"You’ll find more info on the Irish Conference webpage and I’d advise you to download the programme and booking form right away and get your place. Join in the action by using #IrishBSBIConference, and follow the action on Facebook (@IrishSectionBSBI) and Twitter (@murlong77, @BSBIbotany). After the conference, talks and photos will be available on the Irish Conference webpage

A few highlights for you to look out for: Mike Porter, author of the BSBI Viola Handbook, is offering a talk and and an ID workshop on violets; Jessica Hamilton will be talking about botany in Kerry; Clare Heardman will be talking about Ellen Hutchins, Ireland's first female botanist; Rory Hodd will be giving a flash talk on Killarney Fern... and there's lots lots more so do check out that programme in full!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Botany keeps you young!

Eric on the summit of Clougha Pike
Image: Emma Greenwood
I've been reminded a couple of times in the past few weeks that even when botanists get a little older, they don't seem to slow down very much in pursuit of an interesting plant or a decent view. Could it be that botany keeps us all young? Take a look at the evidence below and see what you think...

First of all, to celebrate his 80th birthday, Emeritus Recorder for West Lancashire (VC60) Eric Greenwood, who has been a BSBI member since 1963, climbed one of England's finest hills: Clougha Pike in Lancashire. On a cold February day the mist cleared just in time to give extensive views over the Lancashire plain and Morecambe Bay.

The photograph (above right), taken by his daughter, shows Eric, author of the Flora of North Lancashire (2012) surveying his domain from the summit of Clougha Pike. This follows his illustrious predecessor, Albert Wilson, co-author of the Flora of West Lancashire (1907) who was photographed on the summit of nearby Ingleborough on his 80th birthday in 1942.

Margaret and Queenie on Cronkley Fell
Image: Tricia Snaith
Secondly, we have the redoutable Margaret Bradshaw MBE who has been a BSBI member since 1951. I was chatting to her friend Tricia Snaith about botany in Teesdale and of course Margaret's name came up - she was awarded MBE in recognition of her work to help conserve the flora of Teesdale. Margaret gave a talk on this subject at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting last November - click on the link to access the page and you can download Margaret's talk.

Tricia told me that Margaret now uses Queenie, one of Tricia's Dales ponies, to help her get up Cronkley Fell. Queenie was bred to cross this kind of terrain - she previously carried lead over the Pennines, and now she is carrying one of our most precious botanists. Tricia very kindly sent me the photograph on the left of Margaret and Queenie on the way up Cronkley Fell.

We talk a lot in BSBI about the importance of reaching out to the next generation of botanists - but what better role models could we offer them than Eric and Margaret? Let's hope they both enjoy many more years scaling the botanical heights! 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Byron's Gin supporting BSBI's Training programme

Sarah Whild with copies of the
BSBI Code of Conduct and two
bottles of Byron's Gin
Image: L. Marsh
To Shrewsbury earlier this month for the spring meeting of BSBI's Training & Education Committee and one of the items on the agenda was Byron's Gin.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I should point out that this was not an excuse for committee members to get scandalously drunk and neglect their responsibilities. 

The committee (T&E to its friends) takes the job of supporting the training of our next generation of botanists very seriously. 

That's why everyone was delighted when BSBI entered into an agreement with Speyside Distillery, whereby a contribution from the sale of every bottle of Byron's Gin would come to T&E to help support and train our botanists.

So it seemed only fitting that committee members should get a good look at bottles of Byron's Gin, which features the BSBI logo on every bottle, before we got to grips with the agenda.

Luronium natans: a Schedule 8 plant
listed in the BSBI Code of Conduct
Image: S. Whild
First up was a quick review of the most popular downloads from the BSBI website and T&E members were delighted to hear about the success of two leaflets for which they were responsible.

'So You Want to Know Your Plants' is still the most popular BSBI leaflet by far, with over 5,000 downloads in the past 18 months and hard copies available for people to take away from outreach events such as the BSBI Exhibition Meeting, but the new BSBI Code of Conduct, published last November, has already been downloaded 1,443 times. 

On to training courses and we heard a report from Brenda Harold who runs Identiplant, the incredibly successful distance learning course for budding botanists. 

Applications for Identiplant had opened as usual on 1st December 2017 and Brenda reported that the course was fully booked by 3rd January, with students signing up across Britain and Ireland. 

Grass ID Workshop led by Nick Law (FCPR) for
the National Plant Monitoring Scheme
Image courtesy of FCPR
A brief discussion followed with committee members suggesting potential new tutors for the course, or commenting on how many students have come to Identiplant via the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in which BSBI is a partner, and Brenda was congratulated on her ongoing success. 

We moved on to talk about FISCs, the industry standard qualification in botany which is the brainchild of two longstanding T&E members, Sarah Whild and Sue Townsend

Paul Ashton, Head of Biology at
Univ. Edge Hill and Chair of T&E,
samples Byron's Gin. Mark Duffell, botany
tutor and member of BSBI Council, is
on hand with tonic and a lemon!
Image: L. Marsh 
The ensuing discussion covered many 'behind the scenes' issues, from collection of specimens to be identified during the lab test, to draft protocols, to pricing structures, to logos of sponsors such as CIEEM. 

Next up we had reports on the various training grants and plant study grants administered by T&E and on the FSC's Young Darwin Scholarships; we discussed a Big Idea which has to remain under wraps for now (sorry!); and we closed with plans for the next Recorders' Conference - keep an eye on this page for updates.

By this stage we were ready for a wee taste of Byron's Gin before we headed home, all tasked with various action points to be completed before the committee meets again in the autumn. 

Check out the BSBI Training page to find out more about T&E and head over here to find out about Byron's Gin!