Saturday, 31 October 2015

Afternoon talks at BSBI's Annual Exhibition Meeting

Exhibition Meeting 2013, Natural History Museum
Image: L. Marsh
If you haven't yet booked for this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting on 28th November, maybe seeing the final programme, and hearing about the three excellent talks we have lined up for the afternoon, will encourage you to take the plunge!

After a morning of talks about botanising at the northern, eastern, western and southern limits of BSBI's range, and once you have fitted in looking at all the exhibits and having a go at John Poland's plant ID quiz, or perhaps enjoying a behind-the-scenes tour of the Natural History Museum herbarium, and the society's AGM, and catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, and lunch... 

Exhibition Meeting 2014, University of Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
Then you can enjoy three talks aimed at anyone who wants to get started in botany and recording:

Brenda Harold will tell us about Identiplant, the on-line botanical training course for beginners.

Oli Pescott will be offering us an update on the first year of the National Plant Monitoring Scheme.

Ryan Clark will be telling us all about BSBI's annual New Year Plant Hunt - last year's runaway success and plans for 2016.

Puzzling over the plant quizzes;
Exhibition Meeting 2013
Image: J. Mitchley
Then we'll give you time for a cup of tea and a bun before our keynote speaker takes to the stage at 4pm. Prof Mick Crawley will be talking about Alien Plants - find out more here.

Many thanks to all of you who have already emailed us at to say that you plan to join us on 28th November, and to the 35 exhibitors so far who have been in touch to reserve a space. 

See what you'll be missing if you don't click here now and register for this amazing free event! 

Friday, 30 October 2015

BSBI training grants help budding botanists. Part One

In a few months, botanists planning to attend botanical training courses in 2016 will be keeping a particularly keen eye on the BSBI Training page. This is because our training grants are released early in January each year.

Applicants have to contact our Training Committee with details of the course, why they want to attend and how the course will help them. Then the committee puts all the applications through a rigorous selection process to help them decide where a grant should be awarded.

We have invited this year's grant recipients along to the BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting next month to offer exhibits about the course they attended, what they learned and how the grant has helped them progress in botany. We also invited the recipients to offer a guest blogpost for News & Views, and here Zoe tells us about the course she attended this year - the images on this page are also hers: 

"I was very appreciative and grateful to learn that I was selected as a recipient for the BSBI training grant. I really enjoyed the Identifying Difficult Plant course at Preston Montford Field StudiesCentre. The course has supported my aspiration of working in the conservation sector and has boosted my botany identification skills.

"Having graduated from a BSc in Countryside and Environmental Management at Harper Adams University, I was eager to develop more identification skills with aspirations of working in consultancy. As part of the Identifying Difficult Plants course, I studied grasses, sedges, ferns and horsetails. The course made me more aware of difficult plant taxa, their importance in biological recording and transferring this knowledge. 

"The course was run by Sarah Whild and Mark Duffell involving classroom sessions and practical field trips including a visit to a local canal. My favourite part of the course was being out on site using guides such as Stace and Poland. Having had little experience in using flora identification keys, I feel more confident of their use and terminology.

"After completing the course, I was eager to use these skills. I have been completing volunteer surveys in my local area. One of the sites I like to visit is Silverdale Country Park, Staffordshire run by Groundwork West Midlands. The Park holds cultural and environmental value as a former mining area on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent. Several axiophytes have been recorded here. 

"I’ve also had the chance to take part in the National Plant Monitoring Scheme, this has been very enjoyable and I have built upon my use of vegetation keys in the process. I especially liked the option to survey at different levels: wildflower, indicator and inventory. It is exciting to know that the input of volunteers like me will help us to understand changes in our environment".

Thanks Zoe, we're delighted that the grant proved so helpful and that you are now taking part in the NPMSHere's the link if you would like to book for this year's Annual Exhibition Meeting and find out more about BSBI training grants and the botanists who benefit from them.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Calling botanists in south-west Scotland

The distinctive galls ofDasineura harrisoni forming
aggregates on the leaf petiole.
Image courtesy of  S. Dunlop
Thanks to Stuart who got in touch with this message:

"Dr. Cliff Henry, Area Ranger at the Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland recently found galls of Dasineura harrisoni, a gall-maker on Filipendula ulmaria. This is the first verified record for the British Isles. There has been one record from Denmark this year. It is unlikely that this minute fly has flown from Denmark to Northern Ireland in one leap, so it's possible that there may be specimens in South-west Scotland, which is close to Giant's Causeway. 

"There are a few gall-causers on Filipendula, but the galls of Dasineura harrisoni are distinctive, forming aggregates on the leaf petiole, as shown in the image on the right. A quick survey of known Filipendula specimens might well yield a first Scottish record, so this is a call for botanists from Islay, Jura, perhaps even Ayrshire/Dumfries/Galloway to make a quick check on their local populations.

"Specimens will be required, since DNA sequencing has not yet been carried out.

"Contact: for further information".

Monday, 26 October 2015

Fred to the Rescue!

We are happy to confirm that visitors to this year's Annual Exhibition Meeting will be able to enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Herbarium at the Natural History Museum, thanks to the excellent Fred Rumsey

Fred (centre) and Ryan Clark (right) on the
BSBI stand at Big Nature Day,
Natural History Museum, May 2015.
Image: L. Marsh. 
When Mark Spencer, Senior Curator of the British & Irish Herbarium, informed us that sadly he would be out of the country on 28th November and unable to come to the AEM, we despaired! Bookings were flooding in from people keen to visit the world-famous Herbarium and we really didn't want to let any of you down.

Fortunately, fabulous Fred (who is a BSBI member as well as a NHM botanist) has come to our rescue and very kindly agreed to lead the tours so if you haven't booked yet, please do so quickly! We can fit in a maximum of three tours throughout the day and two of them are pretty much full already.

For more info about the AEM and to book for a herbarium tour, please head over to our Exhibition Meeting page here.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Prof Crawley and the Amazing Shrinking Fleabane

Last month, Prof Mick Crawley (Imperial College) led two well-attended BSBI field meetings in Herts. and South Essex to look at urban aliens. These are plants which have reached our shores in recent centuries and have gone on to become naturalised on our city streets and in patches of 'waste ground' - like the Oxford Ragwort which a few hundred years ago famously 'jumped the fence' of the Oxford Botanic Garden and made itself at home in the new habitat of clinker beds on railway lines, which provided similar conditions to the plant's original home on volcanic slopes in Sicily. Check out where Oxford Ragwort grows now, thanks largely to the railway system. 

Mick and botanists peer at alien plants in Herts.
Image: I. Denholm 
Mick was especially keen to show people how to identify three now common species of Fleabane and share his fascinating observation that one of them is shrinking! Mick's knowledge and understanding of the alien plants of the UK is on a par with Clive Stace's - in fact the two of them have just co-authored a volume on Alien Plants in the highly-respected 'New Naturalist' series and it's due out this month

Clive was our keynote speaker at last year's BSBI Exhibition Meeting, where he talked about hybrids. We are delighted that Mick will be giving our keynote presentation at this year's Meeting, on the subject of - you guessed it! - alien plants.
Mick wrote up a full report about his two urban field meetings for the BSBI Yearbook and has kindly agreed to share part of it here. Compare Mick's account below with yesterday's report of the field meeting in Co. Laois and you get an idea of the scope of BSBI field meetings - they take place in a range of habitats across Britain and Ireland, with some meetings focused more on training, some on recording and some aiming to provide a general introduction for newcomers and/or less experienced botanists. 

Over to Mick:

Jersey Cudweed
Image: M. Crawley
"Becontree (between Barking and Dagenham, South Essex) was constructed between the two World Wars as the largest council housing estate in the world, providing 26,000 ‘homes fit for heroes’ as part of the programme of slum clearance in the East End of London. In contrast Welwyn Garden City (Herts.) was founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the 1920s, following his previous experiment in Letchworth Garden City with the idea of combining the benefits of city and countryside, while avoiding the disadvantages of both. 

"Nowadays, both these towns contain extensive tracts of derelict industrial land, which makes them ideal for urban botanising. At Welwyn Garden City there is the site of the former Shredded Wheat factory, and at Becontree there is waste ground associated with the former May & Baker chemical works and the previously much larger Ford Motor Works. The over-riding impression in both places was of the extraordinary abundance of Senecio inaequidens (Narrow-leaved Ragwort). This is a plant that started out as a rare wool alien, but separate invasion(s) in East London have led to a dramatic increase in distribution and abundance in the capital. It is still missing from large areas of London, but these two sites are real hot spots for it.

"At Becontree, the principal crowd-pleaser was Gnaphalium luteoalbum (Jersey Cudweed) which reaches very high densities on some of the front gardens that have been covered with brick paviors to provide off-street parking. The striking pattern is that it is only paving of a certain age that is affected, while both younger and older forecourts are cudweed-free. This suggests that the operator who created the paving was using a batch of sand for bedding-in the paviors that contained a substantial seed-bank of Jersey Cudweed, and that spread by seed away from infected front gardens to both older and younger patios is relatively ineffective. At Welwyn Garden City, the main crowd-pleaser was Bunias orientalis (Warty- cabbage), a plant that has basal leaves which look much more like Asteraceae than Brassicaceae, and these can be very confusing when the plant is not in flower.

Mick and stand of Conyza sumatrensis, 1995
Image courtesy of M. Crawley
"The main training purpose of both meetings was to familiarise people with the distinctions between the three now-common Conyza (Fleabane) species: in both places, Conyza sumatrensis (Guernsey Fleabane) with its hairy involucral bracts was the most abundant species, while the long-established Conyza canadensis (Canadian Fleabane) with its hairless involucral bracts was found to be much less common than it used to be. 

"The most recently arrived species, Conyza floribunda (Bilbao Fleabane), also has hairless involucral bracts, but is distinguished by the hairs on its leaf-margins: these turn abruptly to point towards the leaf tip (as they do in C. sumatrensis) whereas in C. canadensis the marginal hairs stand out straight from the leaf edge. Conyza floribunda was substantially more common at Welwyn Garden City than at Becontree. In other parts of south-east England, C. floribunda has increased in abundance to such an extent over the last 15 years that it has caused a marked decline in the abundance of C. sumatrensis, reducing it from dominance to rarity over substantial areas of waste ground.

Mick and stand of Conyza sumatrensis, 2015
Image courtesy of M. Crawley
"It is interesting to note how the maximum size of C. sumatrensis has declined as the plant accumulates pathogens and herbivores (principally root-feeding nematodes and fungi, I’d guess). The two pictures on this page are from 1995 and 2015 respectively. When it first arrived, the plant often grew well above head height; now it is seldom taller than chest height".

Have you noticed Conyza sumatrensis getting shorter in your local patch? If so - or if you disagree with Mick - please leave a comment below and let us know.

Mick's full report then goes on to list all the other alien species found at both sites, and those found at one site but not the other, and suggests reasons for this. BSBI members will be able to read the full report (and much more!) in the 2015 Yearbook, now in preparation. If you are not (yet) a BSBI member, join today and your subscription runs until the end of next year and your membership welcome pack will contain Yearbooks for 2014 and 2015, while the 2016 Yearbook will be posted to you in January. 

Mick concluded "Both meetings were well attended and both had good weather. The success of the training element is illustrated by the fact that several of the attendees confessed to having been converted to the joys of urban botanising".

Thanks to Mick for the report and images and to BSBI President Ian Denholm, who attended the Herts. meeting and contributed the image of the group above. Ian will also be speaking at the AEM (about orchids on Guernsey), so here's that link to the AEM webpage again, where you will find a flyer about the talks - let us know if you plan to join us on 28th November.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

BSBI field meeting in Co. Laois this summer

I wonder if the best sign of autumn is not the falling of leaves, but the appearance of reports of the summer's activities, which botanists start to write up as survey season starts to draw to a close?

Fen habitat in The Heath. Pictured are
Fiona McCorry, Fiona Devery, Edwina Cole
& Hugh Sheppard
Image: M. McCorry
Mark from Co. Laois has just written up his account of the BSBI field meeting to The Heath, Co. Laois (VC H14) on 6th June 2015. It will appear, along with any other reports we receive of field meetings held this year, in the BSBI Yearbook which is sent out each year to BSBI members

The Yearbook also contains contact details of everyone in BSBI's support network - we have 186 expert County Recorders, 105 specialist Referees who members can consult for help identifying 180 difficult plant groups, 13 staff or contractors and 96 committee members or other volunteer officers, all keen to help fellow members. The Yearbook is a bit like having your own botanical telephone directory cum address book, and getting your hands on a copy is one of the many perks of BSBI membership! 

So, as this is also the time of year when many non-members are considering joining - in order to benefit from the "3 extra months free" special offer - I thought you might like to see Mark's report in full. Over to Mark:

The bog lough, The Heath, Co. Laois
Image: M. McCorry
"A small group of intrepid botanists visited The Heath (also known as The Great Heath of Maryborough) near Portlaoise. While it was early in June the weather was unseasonably cold with a stiff breeze requiring gloves and woolly hats. The Heath is an unusual area of lowland commonage in Laois, (unusual in that there is very little lowland commonage in the midlands of Ireland – most grassland is enclosed in fields with single ownership) which is grazed by sheep. 

"This area has a long and fascinating history, being farmed since the Iron Age, and containing several archaeological features. It is somewhat similar to The Curragh, a more well-known area of lowland grassland commonage in Co. Kildare. The Heath was also used as a racecourse back in the last century. It contains a range of habitats, being dominated by acidic grassland, but also containing rich fen, dry heath and a small lake with associated marginal wetland vegetation. The site has been listed for designation as a proposed Natural Heritage Area and was also listed as an Area of Scientific Interest for its botanical value, mainly the presence of extensive lowland grassland. A significant chunk has been used as a golf course for some time.

"The fen was initially investigated. This area was dominated by tussocky Schoenus nigricans and Molinia caerulea and also contained species that are quite scarce in Laois, such as Juncus subnodulosus. Other species at various stages of development included Cirsium dissectum, and sedges such as Carex pulicaris, C. demissa, C.hirta, C. rostrata, C. panicea and C. nigra. An eagle-eyed botanist also spotted C. dioica in a wetter seepage zone. This species has only been recorded once before in Laois and not at this site. 

Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea
Image: M. McCorry
"One of the most interesting finds was Pinguicula vulgaris, and one of the few flowers in bloom. The fen was in relatively good condition, although there had been some Gorse thickets adjacent to the fen that had been recently cut and removed. Initially this looked like a typical example of habitat destruction. However, further research found that Gorse is actually causing a problem on The Heath, spreading and creating dense thickets leading to the loss of grassland and heathland habitats. There is obviously ongoing management of this issue. 

"The lake (Little Bog Lough) was examined next after some lunch. This area is a quite interesting wetland with diverse marginal vegetation that was nicely zoned in places.  The lake is one of the larger water-bodies in Laois (Laois has very few lakes), and is also managed as a fishery and is used on occasion by the local triathlon club! A small wetland to the west of the lake contained Equisetum fluviatile, Mentha aquatica and Carex rostrata, which could be found shin deep in the water with Eleocharis palustris, Carex disticha and C. demissa found closer to drier ground along with Veronica scutellata. Other deeper areas had Typha latifolia. Some of the other plants were a little undeveloped to be sure of 100% identification.  

Dry heath habitat, The Heath, Co. Laois
Image: M. McCorry
"A bit of exploration around the west side of the lough was required to find a route between the Gorse and scrub patches into some of the heathland habitat.  Here there were several open areas with low –growing vegetation dominated by Calluna vulgaris and containing Carex panicea, Molinia caerulea, Pedicularis sylvestris, Juncus squarrosus and Luzula multiflora as well as Lathyrus linifolius. Other sections were dominated by sedges and grasses. Many plants were several weeks behind their usual calendar and it took some searching to find an orchid in flower. This species was the Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea, which had its distinctive brick red colour, and which has not been recorded by the BSBI before in Laois. 

"Only a small part of The Heath was examined during this field visit. So there is still plenty of exploring in other parts of the site to do in the future. Rare species in Laois such as Eleocharis quinqueflora and Galium uliginosum have been recorded in The Heath in the past and remain to be re-found and verified. One feature of the site is that it has a diverse range of habitats situated quite close to the local road so it is very accessible to botanists and naturalists. Attendees were Edwina Cole, Fiona Devery, Fiona MacGowan, Hugh Sheppard, Orla McCorry and Hannah McCorry".

Friday, 16 October 2015

BSBI at the Response for Nature launches

The Response for Nature launch in Edinburgh
Image courtesy of S. Housden, RSPB:
When the Response for Nature reports were launched on Tuesday evening, BSBI members were there to contribute to the evening's proceedings and represent the society.  

We didn't give a presentation this time - we were fortunate to have one of the limited speaking slots at the previous launch for the Stateof Nature report, so we felt that it was somebody else's turn this time! 

But wild flowers were represented, with Plantlife (our partners in the National Plant Monitoring Scheme) offering a presentation on their 'Back from the Brink' project.

Social media were buzzing with live reports from the four launches, and many people commented on how many young people were present and how passionately they talked about the natural world. Ryan Clark, who sits on BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee and co-ordinates our New Year Plant Hunt, was at the London launch representing A Focus on Nature. Click here for a report by James, who is an active member of A Focus on Nature. 

Ryan tweeted this...

I had a lovely time near Westminster last night, representing at the launch
...and sent this comment:

There was a lot of interest from A Focus on Nature members to attend the event and only 15 or so members could go. As Steve Backshall said last night, ‘young naturalists believe they can change the world, and I believe they are right’. We are united through A Focus on Nature and our love of wildlife, and it really is like a family. Josie Hewitt spoke after Steve about a young person’s perspective on nature. Josie is 17 and is a star in her own right, although I knew her long before she was hanging out with Chris Packham and Steve Backshall. I have never seen Josie as angry as she was last night. This brought home the message that we need to act for nature, and we need to act now! It was great to see so many young people at the event and hope that MPs and the members of NGOs there took note that some young people do care about nature, but this is not enough – we need action. I am very grateful to have been able to go to this event.

Chris Metherell, BSBI's Hon. General Secretary and Eyebright referee, was at the London launch and tweeted this image: 
. Government consultation on 25yr plan for nature starts tomorrow. Get your pens out!

Jim McIntosh (BSBI Scottish Officer) was at the launch in Edinburgh and said, "After an introduction to the Response for Nature Scotland by Stuart Housden (RSPB), Deborah Long (Plantlife) spoke passionately about the campaign to address the number of declining species populations in Scotland.

BSBI banner on display at the
Response for Nature launch in Edinburgh
Image courtesy of Plantlife Scotland
"She outlined a ten point plan which covered everything from using the Common Agricultural Policy to maximise habitat restoration work, campaigning to ensure that the EU Nature Directives are not weakened, to a more structured approach to species conservation work. 

"It was great to see so many NGO staff and volunteers, including our local BSBI County Recorder, Barbara Sumner, at the event but deeply disappointing that no MSPs turned up. We can but try..."

Stuart Housden (RSPB) speaking at the
Edinburgh launch
Image: J. McIntosh
Here's a distillation of what Prof. Richard Bateman, former BSBI Vice-President who attended the London launch, had to say: 

"The first half of the event consisted of talks by Steve Backshall, Josie Hewitt (17 year-old student), Rory Stewart (Under-Secretary for the Natural Environment at Defra), and Martin Warren from Butterfly Conservation. 

Backshall was quite impressive - he'd assimilated the overarching facts from recent biodiversity policy reports and was – as befits a media star –  confident in his brief, delivering key messages from the 'Response for Nature' report.

Josie spoke with great passion, receiving loud applause. The presentation I found most interesting was Stewart's – someone I hadn't previously seen in action, he having been given the government's Natural Environment brief only after the recent election. He came across as genuine in wanting to see "available limited resources" to be optimally invested and for "decision making to be science driven". He even qualified the few factoids offered, for example noting that although the UK now "has more woodland than at any time since the 14th Century", that it is not the same quality of woodland. He appears to be someone with whom BSBI could do business. 

BSBI Scottish Officer on the
BSBI stand at the Edinburgh launch
Image courtesy of J. McIntosh
Martin Warren recapped the key messages in the report and then we moved on to the round-robin presentations, where attendees had to choose three out of twelve options. I plumped for the Plantlife talk, Sheila Wren (John Muir Trust) on EU Nature Directives, and Paul Wilkinson (Wildlife Trusts) on Blueprints for Nature.

In my book, Wren did a good job of outlining the nature of the EU Directives, though the quick-fire rounds meant that there was not enough time to go into any detail. She responded positively to my question, which was had the John Muir folk prepared contingency plans for if (when?) the UK (England?) leaves the EU. 

She was especially convincing on the threats to the status quo posed by the 'Refit' initiative, which many view as a fundamentally deregulatory agenda designed to eliminate green-field sites from the European landscape!

Some of the young naturalists from
A Focus on Nature.

Ryan is third from right.
Image courtesy of Josie Hewitt
Paul Wilkinson gave the most content-rich talk, presenting Somerset, then Avon, then Hertfordshire as examples of different approaches to using biodiversity mapping summaries in attempts to influence landscape planning usage. Sadly, there wasn't time for me to judge the relative levels of credibility achieved by the three approaches discussed, but they definitely merit their own future presentation to BSBI members.

Many thanks to Richard for his report, and to everybody who made the Response for Nature launches such a success. Let's hope the message rang out loud and clear that we have enthusiastic young naturalists keen to make a contribution, and that scientific and recording societies like BSBI can provide the robust and impartial evidence that Rory Stewart needs to aid "science-driven decision making". 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Book now for BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2015

George Garnett and his Guernsey ferns display
at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2014
Image courtesy of K. Garnett
The flyer for this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting is now available here, with a booking form, details of the day's activities and a programme of speakers. The Meeting takes place at the Natural History Museum in London on Saturday 28th November and you are all invited to join us for a day of botanical delights.

One thing I'm really pleased about is that two of our younger members, who exhibited for the first time at last year's Meeting, are both speaking at this year's event, and they have a combined age of <40. Our next generation of naturalists are really making their voices heard right now! 

The theme for the morning session of talks is BSBI: North East West and South and we offer four presentations on interesting wild and naturalised plants growing at the limits of BSBI's range. First our President Ian Denholm and Lynne Farrell, BSBI Recorder for Mull, will tell us about botanising on Shetland this summer and then, in a break with tradition, we have a talk by a birder.

BSBI President Ian Denholm
in the Herbarium at Univ Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
Don't worry - Ian Woodward of BTO has been out going out botanising in Breckland this summer and spending time in the field with BSBI Scientific Officer Pete Stroh, so his talk is all about BSBI's June 2015 field meeting to look at Breckland's special assemblages of plants.

Representing the west, we have John Faulkner reporting on what BSBI botanists (including the celebrated "Rough Crew") found this summer in Mayo and Antrim. And for the south, Ian Denholm will tell us about orchids on Jersey (he is the BSBI's Orchid Co-Referee) and then we have George Garnett, speaking about botanising on Guernsey and with a focus on ferns.

George is the first of the two younger members but if you want to find out about the other one - and find out who our keynote speaker is - you will have to look at the flyer here or wait for the next News & Views post about the afternoon we have planned for you at the AEM!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Response for Nature report

You can now download the Response for Nature reports here

The coalition's press release is available here and via the BSBI publicity page

Several BSBI members will be attending the launches this evening, which start at 6.30 in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. We'll bring you their reports on these pages as soon as we receive them. 

Or you can follow live coverage this evening on the RSPB Twitter feed here.

Nature conservation organisations call on Government to deliver ambitious vision for nature and people

We have lost many of our ancient bluebell woods
Image: K. Walker
This evening, the Response for Nature report will be launched at events in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. BSBI is one of 26 conservation and research organisations who contributed to the report, which builds on 2012's State of Nature report, to which we also contributed.

BSBI Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh will be representing BSBI at the Edinburgh launch, and our General Secretary Chris Metherell will be at the London launch, along with one of our botanical experts - Prof Richard Bateman, BSBI Co-referee for Orchids. Ryan Clark (BSBI Meetings & Communications Committee) will also be present but this evening he is a part of the A Focus on Nature team - a voice for the next generation of nature-lovers, and one which all coalition partners hope will be heard loud and clear this evening.

Declines in our wildflower populations
 caused by loss/degradation of habitats 
 impact negatively on other wildlife 
Image: R. Clark
This joint press release is issued today - it explains why Response for Nature is so important and why BSBI is proud to be one of the 26 organisations in the coalition: 

An ambitious and inspirational long-term plan is urgently needed to save nature and improve our well-being – that is the clear message from the Response for Nature report published today by a coalition of leading conservation organisations.

The Response for Nature report for England, a follow up to the 2013 State of Nature report, will be launched by naturalist, writer and TV presenter, Steve Backshall, and 26 conservation organisations at Church House in London this evening (Tuesday, 13 October), while simultaneous events will be held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, to launch reports for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Harebells: once common in
England, now Near Threatened
 on England Red List
Image: R. Clark
Each report makes key recommendations that governments must make to help restore nature in the UK. We are losing nature at an alarming rate, so we must act now to halt and reverse this decline before it’s too late – not only for nature itself, but people too.

In 2013, scientists from 25 nature organisations worked side-by-side to compile a stock take of our native species – the first of its kind for the UK. The resulting State of Nature report* revealed that 60% of the species studied had declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed were under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

In his speech at tonight’s London launch Steve Backshall will say: “The State of Nature report revealed where we are. Now we need a plan for where we should go. The Response for Nature document starts us on that long road. 

“Let us be in no doubt that the public is behind us. An independent survey showed that 90 per cent of the UK population feel that our well-being and quality is based on nature.**

One of Ryan's favourite places
for getting in touch with nature
Image: R. Clark
“Action can’t be simply hived off to a single, hard-pressed department in Whitehall. It must run as a matter of course through every department, from Defra to the Treasury. Every department needs to understand that restoring nature will be a key solution to some of our most pressing social, environmental and economic problems. Every individual, from top to bottom, needs to embrace it, and act on it.

“To the Government, I say – please read this report, take note and act on its recommendations. Come back with the details of your 25-year plan. People and nature need you to make it a great one.”

The Response for Nature reports outlines specific asks for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help save UK nature. To ensure its recovery, nature needs the UK Government, or devolved Government’s, to take the following common actions now:

Deliver an inspiring vision for nature – nature needs to be a part of our lives. Government must set a trajectory for nature’s recovery so that, by 2040, we have a country richer in nature and can see people connecting to nature.
Fully implement and defend the laws that conserve nature – our most important laws that safeguard species and special places, the Birds and Habitats Directives, are under threat. We must resist attempts from Europe to weaken our laws and ensure the full implementation of legislation that aims to reduce pressures on nature.
Deliver a network of special places for nature on land and at sea – we need special places to be protected and well managed, and linked within a wider landscape with room for people and nature.
Recover threatened species targeted through programmes of action – we must halt species extinction, but more than that, we should be restoring priority species to favourable conservation status, where populations recover to a healthy state.
Improve the connection of young people to nature for their health and well-being and for nature’s future
Provide incentives (or other financial measures) that work for nature – we need to reward those who enhance our natural world, and make those responsible pay when we take more from it than we put back.
Support people working together for nature – we all have a part to play in saving nature. Each and every one of us needs to take care about, and take action for, nature – before it’s too late.

Declines in plant populations
 and loss/degradation of habitats 
 impact negatively on our wildlife 
Image: R. Clark
Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive, Dr Martin Warren, who will be speaking at the Response for Nature launch tonight, said: “Nature is in trouble, the time to act is now. Conservation NGOs are keen to play their part but we need a strong lead from the UK Government. We welcome the commitment to produce a 25 year plan to restore nature but this must be turned into effective action and fast. We need this for nature but also for the health and well-being of the people of this country.”

As the Chancellor considers the Spending Review and budgets for Government Departments, the Response for Nature coalition is urging them not to undervalue the contribution that a healthy environment can make in delivering a host of public benefits including improved health and happiness, more effective planning, flood prevention, sustainable farming and climate change adaptation.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “There are some big decisions being made over the coming months about public spending, the future of nature laws and development on land and at sea.  These decisions must not erode the basis of nature protection.  We need leadership from the Prime Minister to ensure all Government Departments play their part in enhancing the environment for this and the next generation.”

The Response for Nature coalition for England includes the following partners:

Declines in plant populations
 and loss/degradation of habitats 
 impact negatively on our wildlife 
Image: R. Clark
A Focus on Nature
A Rocha UK
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust
Bat Conservation Trust
Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
British Bryological Society
British Pteridological Society
Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Butterfly Conservation
Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
The Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Freshwater Habitats Trust
Friends of the Earth
The Fungus Conservation Trust
John Muir Trust
The Mammal Society
Marine Conservation Society
National Trust
People’s Trust for Endangered Species
Whale and Dolphin Conservation
The Wildlife Trusts
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
The Woodland Trust

*In 2013, 25 nature organisations worked side-by-side to produce the State of Nature report, a stock take on all our native wildlife. The report revealed that 60 per cent of species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all species assessed were under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. A full copy of the State of Nature report can be found:

**European Commission (2013) Flash Eurobarometer 379: Attitudes towards biodiversity. November 2013.

Public attitudes and support for nature reflect the range of reasons why nature conservation is important. An independent survey published by the European Commission revealed that
94 per cent of the UK population believe we have a moral obligation to halt the loss of nature, 90 per cent feel that our well-being and quality of life is based on nature and 88 per cent believe that nature is indispensable for the production of goods, such as food, fuel and medicines.