Thursday, 5 June 2014

BSBI Summer Meeting: Part One

The first reports are coming in from Birnam, where the Summer meeting is being held. Talks today, which was good because apparently the weather wasn't great. Forecast for tomorrow is much better, which is also good because some of the botanists - including our President Ian Denholm -  are heading for the heights of Ben Vrackie. I expect great photos with a minimum of Gore-Tex if possible!


BSBI members dined together in the Baronial Hall
Image: B. Barnett
The meeting is being held over several days and kicked off last night (Wednesday) with a big dinner in the fabulous Baronial Hall and my spies tell me that the food was really good, to match the venue! I hear a little wine was also taken but that may just be an ugly rumour.

Ian welcomed everyone to the Meeting proper this morning, and opened the proceedings with a "Latest News from BSBI Central" sort of talk - I'll see if we can put the Powerpoint up on the website so you can all see it. 

The first guest talk to delight the botanists today was from Dr Louise Ross, and Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin (he of "Ozone Hole" fame) was on hand to take notes, so even those of us who couldn't attend can get a flavour of the event. I'm told that more photos will follow (please!!!) but Jon's notes are hot off the press, unedited and Chunk Number 1 is reproduced for you here:


Ian Denholm inspiring the troops!
Image: B. Barnett
"Dr Louise Ross described Analysing upland vegetation change using botanical plot records from the 1950s.  In 1952 Duncan Poore conducted a botanical survey of Breadalbane, which resulted in three publications.  Between 1955 and 1959 Donald McVean and Derek Ratcliffe carried out surveys of the Scottish Highlands and in1962 Plant Communities of the Scottish Highlands was published, covering 952 plots.  Since then there have been drivers for change: grazing, burning, pollutants and climate change, which all interact.  How has the vegetation changed, what is the best way to resurvey and what are the key drivers and how have the nature conservation designations affected the change (eg SSSI or not) were questions that formed part of Dr Ross's PhD project and also a subsequent research project.  Types were broadly acid grassland, upland fens and swamps and montane heaths.

Browsing the botanical books
Image: B. Barnett
"Resurvey was based on the original 6-figure grid reference, combined with some of the written background information to provide better location, though - as long as temporal change was greater than spatial variability - precise location didn’t affect the results. There was no significant change in species richness, but there was reduced heterogeneity and change in composition. There was a general decline in bryophytes, not much change in dwarf shrubs, a reduction in forbs, an increase in graminoids, and a decline in lichens.

" Winning species tend to have a temperate distribution with higher temperatures and less precipitation, whilst losers have an arctic-montane distribution with lower temperatures and higher precipitation. A new term is thermophilisation – an increase in warm-adapted species with a concurrent decline in cold-adapted species. In general the montane habitats have undergone the greatest increase in thermophilization. Finally there was a difference between SSSI and non-SSSI plots, with the SSSI have changed least, but it was not sufficient to override the effects of environmental change drivers. A full database will appear on the SNH website later in 2014. In response to questions, Dr Ross said that climate change was a bigger driver than grazing pressure, and that arctic-alpines were under greatest threat in the future."