Thursday, 19 February 2015

BSBI Species Accounts 1-22

Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Image: B. Gibbons
Have you seen what Pete and Kevin have just gone and done?

If you don't know BSBI's Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker and our Scientific Officer Dr Pete Stroh, you may imagine slightly remote and forbidding chaps in lab coats peering down microscopes who hold forth intermittently on BSBI research projects. 

If you do know them, you will be cackling right now at any suggestion of Pete & Kevin as remote or forbidding, and are probably picturing Kev monitoring plants and trialling survey methods in the field, planning great scientific projects and activities for BSBI members to get involved in, writing articles for publications like British Wildlife and New Journal of Botany, tapping into local contacts and local Floras to build a clearer picture about the current state of our wild flowers, and working alongside colleagues in agencies and partner organisations to help shape government policy on nature conservation in Britain & Ireland... 


Basil Thyme (Clinopodium acinos)
Image: P. Stroh
Or you may be smiling, thinking of a shy, modest and slightly nervous Pete, after two years of work leading a team of top British botanists, about to unveil the England Red List to an assembly of scientists and journalists at Kew last year. As soon as he started talking about plants, any shyness evaporated, and both Pete's presentation, and the England Red List itself, proved a resounding success!

So, what have Pete and Kevin done now? This. They've produced 22 brand new in-depth Species Accounts of British plants. Each one is illustrated by gorgeous images, many taken by Pete and Kevin, some by old friends like Lliam Rooney and Bob Gibbons. Each Species Account tells you how to ID the plant, whereabouts it grows in the wild, what kind of conditions it likes, which other plants it grows with, any threats it's currently facing and how we can manage its habitat effectively. 


Fine-leaved Sandwort (Minuartia hybrida)
Image: L. Rooney
My favourite thing here is seeing the various conservation statuses for these plants. As well as being a useful practical tool, they help paint a picture of how a plant is doing (literally) on the ground! So, although the beautifully-named Melancholy Thistle Cirsium heterophyllum is still widespread across Scotland and northern England, and is assessed as being of Least Concern in Britain, the Species Account points out that it is Endangered in Wales and Near Threatened in England. Or how about the tiny but elegant Fine-leaved Sandwort Minuartia hybrida, found mostly on open, chalky substrates in Southern England, extinct in Scotland, a neophyte in Ireland and Wales; this species has suffered substantial declines, so is assessed as Endangered in Great Britain.

These 22 species are just the start - Pete and Kevin plan to publish 80 Species Accounts this year. And how much is BSBI charging you for these amazing resources? Nothing - they are all available here as pdfs for you to download free of charge any time you like. Shall I pass on your thanks to Pete and Kevin and leave you to get on with reading these fabulous Species Accounts? Just try not to drool too much over the images, it's very bad for your keyboard...