Thursday 3 October 2019

State of Nature: BSBI Head of Science explains how BSBI plant records were used.

The 2019 State of Nature report has just been published and BSBI is proud to once again be a contributor, although the report makes sobering reading. There is no big launch this year (we were at the 2013 launch and also at the 2016 launch, both with Sir David Attenborough) but there will be lots online and hopefully in the media tomorrow morning.

I asked Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI's Head of Science, to tell us about the role played in the State of Nature report by BSBI data. Kevin has also been through the report, which you can download here, and below he flags up the plant-related news stories, both good and bad. 

Kidney vetch on a BIFFA butterfly bank
Image: Patrick Cashman, RSPB
Over to Kevin:
"Britain’s wildlife is arguably the best monitored in the world thanks to the millions of hours invested by a national army of volunteer recorders. State of Nature 2019 utilises this unique resource to provide the most complete picture of the state of Britain’s wildlife ever assembled; and the results are alarming. 

Whilst there are some ‘good news’ stories up to half of species in some groups are in serious trouble. 

Image: Kevin Walker
"Trends for over 1440 plants were included in the report all based on BSBI distribution records with analyses carried out by Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The results provide some strong messages; wildflower meadows continue to decline in extent and quality, along with their associated fauna (page 15); atmospheric pollution and eutrophication is clearly impacting species of infertile conditions (page 40) and our woodlands are suffering from the effects of diseases such as Ash Die-back (pages 43-45). 

"Pasqueflower features prominently in the report but what is not mentioned is the main reason for its decline – lack of management which is now widely recognised as a threat to many species.

Lady's-slipper orchid
Image: Steve Knell, RSPB
"However, there is hope – thanks to the work of the organisations (including BSBI) that form the SoN partnership, we have an unrivalled understanding of why our wildlife is in trouble; the litany of causes includes habitat loss, modern farming methods, pollution, persecution and increasingly climate change. 

"But we also have the knowledge, technologies and increasingly public will to put things right. One example given in the report is the recovery of Lady’s-slipper Orchid from a single plant to hundreds now re-established in former sites following years of painstaking ex situ breeding and careful re-introduction.

"Plants provide the bedrock of a healthy ecosystem and it is clear from the results that their declines are exacerbating more marked declines in groups that rely on them, notably insects, mammals and birds. As the SoN report affirms, we need to start working together as one conservation movement, to make the changes needed for the good of British wildlife and the generations to come".

You can find about more about the State of Nature national report here on the BSBI website, download the full report here and we are posting country summaries across the country pages on the BSBI website. 

You can also follow the #StateofNature hashtag on Twitter.

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