Thursday, 6 June 2013

Natural migration of British plants II: Quentin's results. 

Quentin told me: "I use BSBI data to investigate how populations of British plants have moved, but I don't find any obvious influence of climate change. In fact, the most obvious environmental change that is causing plants to migrate is road salting, but that will come as no surprise to BSBI members".


BSBI map showing spread of Danish scurvy-grass
Cochlearia danica along roadsides in Norfolk.
Nor to anyone who watched "Wild Things" on Channel 4, where BSBI maps were also used to show the spread of Danish scurvy-grass, a halophyte (salt-loving plant). 

Quentin's paper points out: "Even though many wind-dispersed species were among the top migrating species, halophytes - with no obvious morphological dispersal strategy - moved just as rapidly. Halophytes have the advantage of an uninterrupted habitat, free from competitors as they spread along roads where salt is strewn in the winter".

Ok, so habitat availablility is important. But what about climate change?  

Quentin's paper is titled 'Some poleward movement of British native vascular plants is occurring, but the fingerprint of climate change is not evident' and he concludes: "The fingerprint of climate change is not yet obvious on the migration of  plants in Great Britain [although] climate change is affecting British plants in other ways... however, its traces in Great Britain are obscured by other manmade changes to the environment and will require more sensitive analyses to uncover."  

He just emailed me to point out, "I do expect changes due to climate change, but the consequences on our flora might be quite unpredictable". 

Next month, the two papers Quentin has written for New Journal of Botany will be available free to download from our special Journal of the Month webpage. Quentin has also just agreed to write something for the webpage about a botanical subject currently grabbing his attention - I'll let you know the subject as soon as he tells me what is intriguing him most right now!