News from the Science Team
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.