Thursday 14 July 2022

Scottish botanist raises extinction alarm on arctic-alpine plants

Snow pearlwort
Image: Sarah Watts
Scottish botanist Sarah Watts, PhD researcher from the University of Stirling, and a member of BSBI's Committee for Scotland, has been raising the alarm about the threat faced by rare arctic-alpine plants such as snow pearlwort, mountain sandwort and drooping saxifrage due to climate change. 

These species all require a cool climate at high altitude, so as the planet warms up, they have to move further northwards and upwards - until there is nowhere further for them to go. They also face competition from those lowland species colonising upland areas as they try to escape the effects of rising temperatures.

Sarah & Robin recording at Corrour, July 2022
Image Jim McIntosh 

Sarah's research is based on over 40 years' monitoring of the rare plants of Ben Lawers by staff and volunteers from the National Trust for Scotland. In a press release issued by Univ. Stirling, Sarah, who has spent the past twelve years as part of that team, said "Our research signals a rapid loss of biodiversity happening right now, which means that, if it's allowed to continue on this accelerated trajectory, due to climate change, we will see the extinction of species like these".

Sarah is co-author on this paper about snow pearlwort published in British & Irish Botany, BSBI's scientific journal; this plant has declined by 66% since the mid-1990s, leading the BSBI to change its conservation threat status from Vulnerable to Endangered. Snow pearlwort is the first vascular plant to be re-classified as Endangered due to climate change, but it's unlikely to be the last.

Botanists Gus, Robin & Jim (in red)
 recording at Corrour, July 2022
Image Sarah Watts
Jim McIntosh, BSBI's Scottish Officer, said: "This is a very worrying development; Sarah and I have just spent the past week with a team of botanists recording rare arctic-alpine plants on the Corrour Estate in the Scottish Highlands; we hope that this will set a good baseline for detecting any further changes due to global warming." 

To find out more about the plants that Jim, Sarah and the team recorded at Corrour, click on their Twitter accounts (this is Jim's and this is Sarah's) and on the #Corrour hashtag - and check out the coverage about Sarah's recent research into those rare arctic-alpines in news outlets such as the Daily Mail and the BBC website.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment!