|Kevin Walker at the launch of the
England Red List, RBG Kew, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
Obviously, when you come to go through the Species Accounts yourself, you should allow several hours for this, as there 80 already published (and 10 more in the pipeline) and they all make fascinating reading for anyone interested in nature conservation. But at this stage, you may wish to reclassify them from 'gift' to 'essential research which precludes my doing any washing-up right now'.
|Kevin's work does have certain advantages -
the views and the company can be amazing!
Image courtesy of K. Walker
"I was always frustrated by the lack of accessible accounts for British species. The Biological Floras in the Journal of Ecology are excellent but these only cover a small number of species and are widely available. They’re also very academic and often don’t answer the questions we want answered.
"So we trialled some accounts on the website. These generated a lot of interest which led to funding for us to produce more detailed accounts for a suite of threatened species.
"This proved that the demand was there and so
we’ve been working away on them ever since and this year we finally managed to
set up a webpage where anyone can access them for free. What we aim to do is
cover species which are not well known but for which there is lots of useful
information scattered amongst the literature.
|Antennaria dioica growing in profusion
on The Burren, Co. Clare, RoI
Image: K. Walker
"Take Antennaria dioica for example. This is a species that is always nice to see but probably not a species that would generate much interest in the north and west. However, A. dioica (Mountain Everlasting) is vanishingly rare in much of England and Wales and appears to be declining for unknown reasons - Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian) is another example. It has a fascinating ecology that has attracted eminent ecologists such as Turesson.
most botanists know, it’s a dioecious species with a predilection for short-turf
on extremely nutrient-poor soils. That is not a good combination in the
lowlands of England, where its populations have become smaller and more
fragmented, except in a few places where large meta-populations have managed to
survive with both male and female plants (e.g. on dunes in Cornwall). These
insights have come from discussions with BSBI recorders and a review of the
|Kevin in the field with David Pearman,
BSBI President 1995-8
Image courtesy K. Walker
Some interesting thoughts from Kevin - something for us to mull over if festivities start to flag! Just before he headed home to spend Christmas with his family, I asked Kevin if he would come back in the New Year and do a full interview for us, telling us all about the Science Team and some of the projects they are involved in. He agreed and then, talking of New Year, I had to ask if our Head of Science would be taking part in the New Year Plant Hunt?
Kevin said: "Yes, with the family in the woods around my village. We did a recce at the weekend and found at least three unexpected plants in flower and if this warm weather continues I’m sure we’ll have something to record!"