Friday, 3 October 2014

England's new Red List of Vascular Plants

It seems to be an incredibly productive season for botanical publishing. A new bryophyte atlas on the way; fliers for a reprint of the BSBI handbook Docks & Knotweeds with BSBI News, and for books on Yorkshire's Hawkweeds and Bedfordshire's Orchids; but one of the most exciting publications has been that of the new Vascular Plant Red List for England

The launch of the Red List was also a celebration of the contribution of David Pearman to British botany. His name might ring the loudest bell to many as co-editor of the 2002 New Atlas (now rather expensive, apparently because Defra pulped all of the left over copies -- the less said about that the better). However, David has also contributed a huge amount to many other areas of botany, including several interesting pieces encouraging a more critical perspective on the impacts of alien plants. For example, see this article for a stimulating read! His views on the native statuses of British plants have also been very influencial: see this paper for a host of fascinating examples.

David Roy of BRC and David Pearman at his eponymous celebration and Red List launch
The Pearman celebration segued into the launch of the England Vascular Plant Red List launch very nicely. This exciting publication has used new interesting methods, and of course plant distribution data collected over more than 80 years by BSBI members and others, to reveal a rather worrying picture of England's native floral diversity. The new analysis has found that around a fifth of our wildflowers are now under threat. Many plants were found to have undergone worse declines in England than in Great Britain as a whole, highlighting the importance of this new England-level analysis.

Of course, we have known for a long time that particular habitats have been under a lot of pressure in England, but it is fantastic to have the broad, volunteer-led distribution data revealing the same thing as smaller, habitat-focused studies. It all helps to form a compelling picture of ecological change that should convince politicians and funding bodies that plant conservation is both necessary and really worthwhile.

Oh, and whilst you can purchase the Red List (a fascinating read with lots of nice photos) at Summerfield Books, you can also take home a nice shiny pdf immediately! I have to admit to not having read mine probably yet, but this is far more than just a list, there are around 60 pages of text, analysis and photos, with the list (covering all native plants in England as far as I can tell) covering another ~110 pages. GB Red List designations are also included. I'm looking forward to settling down with it and learning a lot more about the British flora!