Friday, 9 January 2015

New Year Plant Hunt: comments from the Co-ordinator

Bramble at Wye NNR
Image: A. Gay
So the results of the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt are in - they have all been collated and analysed. The results are even more interesting than we could have imagined, as detailed in the last blogpost. Our recorders found 368 plant species blooming between 1st-4th January.

It has been great to use the vast amount of data that this project has collected to start to answer some questions about what causes plants to flower at this time of year and why they do it. Our analysis of the data suggests that a high proportion of the species recorded in both the 2014 and 2015 New Year Plant Hunts were only recorded once or twice. This indicates that these species do not commonly flower at this time, whereas some species like Dandelions (Taraxacum agg.) were on almost everyone's lists, indicating that it is common for this group of species to flower at this time of year.

Another interesting result is how in some areas, there are dramatically fewer plants in flower compared with last year. For example in VC55, 18 botanists went out to carry out a Plant Hunt on the same route that they took in last year's Plant Hunt. This year they recorded around half the number of species in flower that were recorded last year. This is a dramatic result which is replicated elsewhere. For these results to be reliable, the same route [or the same plot: ed.] has to be used each year, which is how the new National Plant Monitoring Scheme will work.

Gorse, Plymouth, 4/1/2015
Image: J. Goldring
We would like to thank everyone who took part in this year's New Year Plant Hunt, it has been fascinating to see patterns emerging from the results and hear about the fun you all had collecting such results. It has been especially rewarding to hear from less experienced botanists getting involved for the first time recording wild plants. 

Many of you even managed to encourage your friends and family who are maybe not interested in wildlife to take part, which is really great! What better way to bond over the New Year than to spend some time searching together for plants in the fresh air? 

Prunus cerasifera, Bristol, 4/1/2015
Image: J. Mortin
We have had records ranging from people who just spotted a few wild plants in their gardens to one person who managed to submit a list for 2 separate Plant Hunts, one in England and the other one in Ireland! It really didn't matter if you found 1 plant species in flower or 100, all the results were equally valuable to us. 

Thank you to those people that sent in photos of plants as well, I have thoroughly enjoyed looking through them all. Some of you even sent in pictures of the places you had been searching for plants including near lakes and waterfalls. It certainly puts the industrial estate where I carried out my New Year Plant Hunt to shame!

Field madder, Co. Cork, 1/1/2015
Image: P. O'Meara
I would like to thank the co-founders of this project, Dr Tim Rich and Dr Sarah Whild for dreaming up the New Year Plant Hunt, and thanks also to Louise Marsh (BSBI Publicity & Outreach Officer) and Ian Denholm (BSBI President) for their continued support and guidance. I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to make a contribution and co-ordinate the project this year, and I’m already looking forward to what we might see on next year’s Hunt.

With more years of data, we will be able to more precisely analyse which species are most likely to flower each year and work out how weather patterns and climate change are affecting this. We hope you all decide to take part next year. 

The 2015 Hunt is over: here’s to the 2016 New Year Plant Hunt!

Posted by Ryan Clark