As a participant in the Birds Aus. atlas project I found the following item
about a botanical census project in the UK interesting. I thought for a minute
about the prospects for a botanical atlas in Oz and realised that it would be
one hell of a project. [We've got a lot more biodiversity than they have, and
some of it is still poorly described]
Identifying plants is far more difficult than birds [even though they don't fly
away] as there are a hell of a lot more species. Even identifying plants via
digital images can be difficult for species that are at ground level and easily
photographed. For example, I presented a picture some yellow rock orchids to
some knowledgeable types who couldn't agree whether it was Liparis reflexa or
Liparis swenssoni. Perhaps the taxonomists split the species in recent times
Filling in a birding atlas sheet for a 2 ha site would be a piece of cake
compared to a 2 ha botanical survey in some of the places I go bushwalking ...
British plant census finds an invasion of foreign
species is jeopardising natives
By Charles Arthur
11 May 2002
The first complete census of Britain's native plants for 40 years has found that
thousands of species are disappearing.
The research, by thousands of amateur botanists, is now being prepared for
publication after years of diligent work during which the whole of Britain was
divided into 10-kilometre squares and every plant species in those areas was
Simon Leach, a botanical adviser to English Nature, said: "There's been a
decline of an almost tragic extent in native species. Species like the great
water Parsnip pave declined hugely. It's gone from about one-third of the
squares where it
was present in 1962."
David Pearman, of the British Botanical Society, said: "There have been huge
changes, especially to wet- condition plants; those have almost disappeared from
large areas of the South-east such as Kent, Surrey and Sussex."
While there are roughly 1,500 native wild flower species in the UK, the number
of alien species has risen to nearly 3,000.
One reason is the arrival in the past 40 years of alien plant species such as
Japanese knotweed, Spanish bluebells and Australian swamp stone crop.
Dr Martin Harper of the plant conservation charity, Plantlife, said: "The
Australian swamp stone crop can grow up to 15 centimetres (6 inches) a day,
hogging sunlight, killing fish and changing the ecology of an area."
Other alien species have also caused problems. One of the best-known is Japanese
knotweed, which Swansea City Council has spent more than £1m trying to
eradicate. The giant hogweed is also still too prevalent, despite efforts over
the past 20
years to wipe it out.
The other force that is affecting native plants is climate change. With the
weather becoming warmer, plants that survived best in cold conditions such as
the north of the country or at altitude are being threatened as their habitat
changes and is
viable for outside species.
James Smart of Plantlife said: "It means plants will start colonising areas
higher up hills or in the north. In some cases, there will be nowhere for the
plants that are there to go ? so invasive species might overwhelm them."
Mr Pearman said some native species were thriving. "Those that have a good
strategy for coping do better. In particular, the ones that deal with stress do
the best. It might sound a little odd, but plants, like humans, find the modern
"Actually, although the number of wild flowers in particular fell in the
mid-1970s, the outlook overall is still bright. The picture isn't nearly as bad
as the doomsday people suggest. There's quite a nice amount of diversity out
One native plant that is thriving is Danish scurvygrass, which normally lives on
coastal cliffs. But now it has been found along the edges of the A55, an
expressway in north Wales that runs between the English border and Anglesey.
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