Sunday, 6 September 2015

Threatened Plants Project to the rescue!

Could Simon be pondering how to
get hold of the data he needs?
Selfie with Skunk-Cabbage by S. Smart
Yesterday, we left Simon Smart, lead author of a paper in the forthcoming issue of New Journal of Botany, thinking about how to model rare plant species in terms of the faithfulness of their more common pals. But Simon was painfully aware that he didn't have the data needed to carry out a meaningful test across many species. 

At this point, BSBI came to the rescue in the form of the excellent Dr Kevin Walker, our Head of Science, and the Threatened Plants Projecta five year BSBI initiative to learn more about species assessed as 'Threatened' on the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain (2006)

Many BSBI members contributed records to the Threatened Plants Project so you could say that it's down to our members and the data they collected that Simon was able to realise his goal! Simon takes up the story:

Holly Fern Polystichum lonchitis
Image: S. Smart
"The whole idea had been shelved until the wonderful Threatened Plants Project (TPP) began to yield just the data we needed, focusing as it did on rare and vulnerable plants in Britain. Critically, the method included placing quadrats around individuals and recording associated plants. I was involved in some delightful field work recording some of the TPP plots with Kevin Walker

"Some memorable days of botany ensued, particularly being awe-struck by the leathery, saw-toothed beauty of Polystischum lonchitis here growing on the limestone pavement above Settle and which Kev opined might be the most southerly plant in Britain! I had never seen the species before and it was wonderful to see it at last.

Kevin Walker at the press launch for the
England Red List; Kew, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
 
"This is one of the six species we analyse in our paper based on the unique TPP dataset that finally allowed us to test a germ of an idea, namely that Bayes Theorem might be a simple way of quantifying the association between rare plants and their neighbours, but including the commonness of the neighbour species to weight the indicator status of each neighbour. 

"We have yet to crack the next challenge which is to include, in a simple way, the patterns of association between these neighbours in the presence and absence of the rare species".

Tune in tomorrow for the final part of the story, when Simon turns his attention to another TPP species and - after a mere eight years - feels ready to start presenting his ideas at BSBI meetings and conferences.