Tuesday 8 October 2019

State of Nature in Northern Ireland

BSBI members & volunteers sort
through plants drawn from Lough Neagh
September 2019
Image: J. Faulkner 
Last week, the 2019 State of Nature report was published; BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker reported on how BSBI data, collected by our 3000+ volunteer members, underpinned the report.

The State of Nature partnership, of which BSBI is proud to be a member, also published summaries for the four countries which make up the UK, and we shared these summaries across the country pages of the BSBI website.

Below, John Faulkner, BSBI County Recorder for Co. Armagh and BSBI President 2015-2017, shares his thoughts on the state of nature in Northern Ireland

“There has been no let-up in the net loss of nature, according to the UK State of Nature report 2019. This is just as true of Northern Ireland as of the rest of the UK.

Casting a grapnel to collect aquatic plants
Image: J. Faulkner
“The Northern Ireland summary highlights our internationally important habitats and some of the pressures they face.  It also highlights pressures on species. Of over 2000 species assessed, 11% are threatened with extinction from Ireland (both north and south). About half of these species are plants, which are fundamental to all wildlife.

Lough Neagh is singled out in the report as by far the largest body of freshwater in the UK, and recent work by BSBI members illustrates the fate of plant life there. The flora of the Lough has undergone massive changes. Of all the aquatic plant species recorded as occurring in the Lough up to the year 2000, only 50% have been refound since then. The aquatic vegetation of the Lough is now dominated by a small number of species that thrive on very high nutrient levels. Plant diversity has plummeted.

Pollution by high nutrient levels – whether in water, soils or the atmosphere – is now believed to be the biggest single cause of the decline of plant species in Northern Ireland, but other factors such as habitat loss and changes in the management of marginal farmland also play a part”.

Learning about hybrid pondweeds with
expert Chris Preston as part of
Ireland's Aquatic Plant Project
Image: R. Northridge
This is obviously not pleasant reading but many thanks to John for drawing our attention to these serious declines and the reasons behind them. Thanks also to BSBI aquatics expert Nick Stewart who provided some of the stats mentioned above.

If you are concerned about our declining wild flowers and wondering what you can do to help, may we suggest that you consider contacting your BSBI County Recorder who has oversight of the wild plants in your area. Contact details are here and you don’t need to be a BSBI member to start getting involved

We can’t even begin to conserve what we don’t know about so helping to record and monitor the plants in your area, and sharing what you find out, are important steps towards preventing further declines.

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