Science

The BSBI uses its data for scientific research and to provide services to academia and conservation and land management organisations. Find out more in this note about BSBI science by Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI's Head of Science.

News from the Science Team

*NEW* Kevin Walker says: "I've been completing assessment of impacts for 14 invasive plants as part of the Non-Native Species Secretariat workshop; results to be published as a paper next year. I'm also working on introductory analyses and chapters for the Threatened Plants Book.

*NEW* Pete Stroh has now finished working on the latest batch of Species Accounts and they will be uploaded here shortly.

Kevin Walker says: "During August/ September I'll be in the office working on a number of things whilst trying to do a bit of fieldwork and collect seed for Kew's Millenium Seed Bank. Office projects include completing papers on how best to record native or alien status; the occurrence of rare, scarce and threatened species on SSSIs; the design and launch of NPMS and the traits of rare and scarce grassland plants".

Read Pete Stroh's reports on surveying for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme and collecting seed for the Millenium Seed Bank.  

Kevin & Pete: "Are you interested in the results of the Threatened Plants Project? We have now completed all the accounts and are editing them for publication!"

Pete Stroh says: "I've a small project with CUBG investigating the soil seed longevity of Iberis amara. Soil samples were collected at two depths (0-5cm and 5-10cm) from three sites a couple of weeks ago, and we're growing on the samples at CUBG. Although many authors have assumed persistent longevity, there is no published evidence to confirm this view, and I thought it would be nice to have more information for this Nationally Scarce and Vulnerable species. A paper detailing the findings will be written once germination has finished (ca. 1 year from now).

Kevin Walker says: "I'm currently working on a paper outlining the development of the NPMS including how we chose the habitats, species, methods, etc. As part of this I've had to summarise all semi-natural habitats covered in one table. Quite a feat!"  

Pete Stroh says: "This week, I'm re-surveying permanent grassland plots set up by Terry Wells (first grassland ecologist at NCC) in the late 1960s in Wiltshire, focusing on plots that contained Tephroseris integrifolia. The survey will gather information on Tephroseris, where it still persists, and also grassland composition 50 years after the first survey. A paper discussing the results will be written this winter".

Kevin says: "Just left a 2 day workshop run by GB Non-Native Species Secretariat & CEH on impacts of invasive aliens.  I led the plants team who assessed 122 species. Paper to follow". 

Pete says: "Kevin and I co-authored this Open Access paper on the major drivers of biodiversity change in the UK". 

Scientific research: The BSBI maintains one of the largest biological recording databases in the world, with structured data that are invaluable for analyses such as responses to climate change. We use these data to undertake research, often with collaborators in universities and research institutes. In 2012 an international conference was held to celebrate the breadth of this research. 

Data supply: BSBI recorders submit over a million records to our central online Distribution Database each year. Access is granted to BSBI recorders and individuals and organisations for research, conservation and land management purposes. If you would like to apply for access please do so here.

Relevance

BSBI and partners use our data to produce high quality and relevant science that allows us to:

  • Monitor environmental change.
  • Understand the causes of environmental change.
  • Improve our understanding of species distributions’, ecology, evolution and taxonomy.
  • Provide the evidence needed to inform species conservation and management and guide the implementation of environmental policies. 

Projects

Atlas 2020: Mapping plant distributions is at the core of what BSBI does best and Atlas 2020 will be our third atlas of the British and Irish flora. This will provide hectad maps for all native and non-native species and provide an assessment of the changes that have taken place since the first (1967) and second (2002) atlases. Members and non-members can contribute by joining their local group and taking part in recording.

Hybrid atlas: The Hybrid Flora of the British Isles was published by BSBI in 2015 and is the first comprehensive assessment of plant hybridisation at a national scale and provides novel insights into the scale and nature of plant evolution over the last two centuries

Threatened plants: A national survey of around 4000 populations of 50 of Britain’s most threatened species undertaken by BSBI members between 2008 and 2013. This survey provides information on the abundance, ecology, habitats and management as well as the threats they face. A report is due to be published shortly; draft accounts are available here. The data has already been used to model the relationships between rare species and their common associates

Climate change: BSBI data has contributed to research examining the impacts of climate change on British plants including losses of Boreal plants in lowland Britain and quantifying poleward range shifts. Since 2013 BSBI has also been running a public New Year Plant Hunt to assess the extent to which the phenology of British and Irish plants is changing in response to climate change. The BSBI also maintains a database of  altitudinal ranges and this has great potential for quantifying altitudinal shifts which are known to be occurring on mountains in Europe due to increasing temperatures. 

Extinction: Extinction can be assessed at a variety of scales from sites, to county, country and ultimately global scales. BSBI data has been used by many researchers to quantify the scale of plant extinction over the last 200 years and identify the causes of losses that have taken place.

Pollution: Pollution, especially airborne and terrestrial nitrogen, is emerging as one of the greatest threats to native plant species in the industrialised world. BSBI data have contributed to numerous papers that have quantified the nature and scale of this problem in the UK. 

Non-natives: The extent to which non-native plants are causing declines in native species is an area of active research. BSBI scientists have been instrumental in quantifying the numbers of species that have become established, assessing how they got here and where they came from, and providing ecological information and accounts: see the Non-Native Species Secretariat’s Information Portal.

Axiophytes: Axiophytes (or worthy plants) are species with strong associations with habitats that we would wish to conserve. They therefore have great value as ‘positive indicators’ and are now being widely used for assessing and monitoring site ‘quality’ or targeting conservation, restoration and other land management schemes.

Red Lists: BSBI scientists coordinate the GB Red Listing process for higher plants and recently worked with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology to produce the first national Red List for England.

Species information: BSBI scientists produce authoritative Species Accounts that include information on identification, distribution, habitats, ecology, threats and management. These are currently free to download from this webpage.

Contact us

Dr. Kevin Walker is BSBI's Head of Science, and works closely with other organisations and academics to promote and develop the scientific work of the Society. Please contact Kevin if you are interested in collaborative research, accessing our data or commissioning reports or information.