Thursday, 20 April 2017

Scottish Newsletter: spring issue now out

Norwegian Mugwort photographed
on Cul Mor by Simon Harrap:
winner in the 'Rare Species' category of the
BSBI Photographic Competition 2016 
This year's issue of the BSBI Scottish Newsletter is now out and features 56 pages of botanical delights. 

You can download a free copy from the BSBI Scotland page or (in return for a small donation to BSBI) our Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh will arrange for a print copy to be sent to you - his email address is jim.mcintosh@bsbi.org   

Inside this new issue you will find a report on last November's Scottish Annual Meeting, Jim McIntosh's annual report (also available via the BSBI Scotland page), an obituary of Eric Meek, details of BSBI's annual photographic competition, dates for national and local field meetings...

There are also items which have not previously been covered elsewhere on the BSBI website, such as an article by David Welch titled 'Another Scottish specimen of Rubus arcticus', a crossword, and an article by Angus Hannah (editor of the BSBI Scottish Newsletter and County Recorder for the Clyde Islands) titled 'Hypolepis ambigua - the story so far'. Altogether an excellent read!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Irish BSBI Conference

Enjoying the Gardens during lunch-break
Image: J. Denyer
The 2017 Irish BSBI Conference was held last month at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, and you won't be surprised to hear that it was a roaring success.

Prof Daniel Kelly talks about  David Webb
Image: R. Hodd
You can see the programme on the Irish Conference webpage, or read a bit more on this blogpost

The hashtag for the conference proved very popular and lots of people used it throughout the day (to share their enthusiasm for all the great talks and workshops) and afterwards (to tell us what a brilliant day they'd had!)

We were all delighted to see how many newcomers attended: people who had not been to a BSBI meeting before and were not BSBI members. 

Many of them were under-30 so organisers Maria Long (BSBI Irish Officer) and Paula O'Meara (Secretary of the Committee for Ireland) are obviously doing a great job enthusing the next generation of Irish botanists!  


Maria (on left) & rushes expert Lynda Weekes
Image: F. O'Neill 
Robert Northridge MBE, County Recorder for Co. Cavan and joint County Recorder for Fermanagh) emailed Maria after the conference: "The programme was really excellent – very diverse, with something for everyone. The preponderance of younger attendees was really impressive! It’s very reassuring to see such a level of interest, and bodes well for the future. Thank you and well done".

Zoologist Ruth Carden tweeted "Enjoying the #IrishBSBIConference in National Botanic Gardens on a glorious day, a zoologist among friendly botanists"; student Cian White enjoyed the "fascinating talk on David Webb" and Fiona O'Neill tweeted: "Loving the #IrishBSBIConference, learning so much and meeting terrific people".

"All ready to teach aquatics": Joanne Denyer 
Ralph Forbes, the other County Recorder for Fermanagh said "It was really terrific to see so many people there interested in plants and the work of BSBI... I am sure the new and non-members present were impressed and hopefully they will become actively involved. Old fogeys like me need reassurance that a new generation of people exist who are genuinely interested in getting their feet wet and recording plants, and addressing the problems that plants face persisting in a rapidly changing environment".

Waterford Institute of Technology's Horticulture Dept. tweeted:

   Mar 25
Great day at the in Dublin today. Will be encouraging our students to attend next yr. Hort & botany an ideal marriage!

And finally, delegate Colm Clarke put it most succinctly of all: "It was a cracker of a conference". 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Survey of Scottish saltmarsh plants

Many thanks to BSBI Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh who got in touch to tell us about a newly published survey of Scottish saltmarsh plants, to which Scottish County Recorders such as Ian Strachan (Westerness) and Theo Loizou (Angus) contributed. 

Over to Jim:

"From 2010-2012 all known saltmarshes larger than 3ha were surveyed across the Scottish mainland and offshore islands, to compile the first detailed comprehensive national survey of this habitat in Scotland. 

"All saltmarsh and brackish swamp was mapped using the National Vegetation Classification. All mapped areas were digitised to a 1:4,000 scale GIS database. The condition of each saltmarsh site visited was assessed. 

Sea Aster (on left) and Sea Arrowgrass
Image: S. Bungard
"In total, 249 sites were visited and 7,704ha of saltmarsh were recorded and mapped. Click on the link to download the SNH Commissioned Scottish Saltmarsh Survey Report.

"In the process some 20,526 records of vascular plants were made in 34 vice-counties and these have been painstakingly extracted and tidied up by Stephen Bungard (County Recorder for North Ebudes) and uploaded to the BSBI Distribution Database by Tom Humphrey". 

Jim and Stephen also forwarded the link to Iain Macdonald and Stewart Angus, BSBI's contacts in Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and Iain replied – “A brilliant piece of citizen science effort this Stephen. You are putting the rest of us to shame! Thank you very much for undertaking this and for placing the records on the BSBI Database.” Sentiments we can all echo!
Sea-blite in the Hebrides
Image: S. Bungard 

Extra thanks are due to Stephen who provided the images on this page, which also appear in recent newsletters he has published, such as this one and this one

To cap it all, I must tell you that Stephen responded to my request for a photo of the front cover of the Saltmarsh Survey and promptly sent me the image at the top of this page even though he was on a ferry at the time - now there's dedication for you! 

He was returning to his home on Raasay after giving a very successful talk on the Isle of Skye about his work as a BSBI County Recorder (you can find out more on Stephen's blog). Our County Recorders really are an amazing bunch of men and women!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Welsh 'Domesday Book' of plants: part three

BSBI's Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott has been in great demand recently from the media. You'll remember that last week she was at University of Aberystwyth talking about BSBI's ground-breaking Rare Plant Registers, and how Wales has just become the first country on earth to have such a register for every single county.

Well, on Sunday morning Polly was interviewed (again) by BBC Radio Wales, this time for their Country Focus programme (the interview starts about 7 minutes in). Here's the link so you can catch up via iPlayer.

This morning, television got in on the act and Polly was interviewed by Gerallt Pennant for S4C. This interview was carried out in Welsh so when it goes out, those of us who don't speak the language will be hoping for subtitles. We'll share the link once it goes live so keep an eye on Polly's blog.

Polly also found time to put together the image on the right, showing covers of all the published Rare Plant Registers and the counties they cover. 

Polly and Andy Jones, Natural Resources Wales,
talking about Rare Plant Registers at the
University of Aberystwyth last week
Image: D. Williams
And she's been carrying out all her usual duties as BSBI's Welsh Officer, supporting County Recorders and active botanists across Wales. To get an idea of how successful she's been with this, head over to the BSBI Wales page, where you can download a selection of reports from County Recorders across Wales, summarising what they achieved (with Polly's help) during 2016. 

Many thanks to our colleagues at Natural Resources Wales for their continued funding which has helped make all the above possible. And of course thanks to Polly herself! You can follow her on Twitter here and her blog is here.   

Friday, 31 March 2017

Think globally, record locally!

At NFBR conference 2016:
 with Sue Townsend, David Roy, Keiron Browne...
Image: L. Marsh
Jodey Peyton, the woman behind last year's successful BSBI Exhibition Meeting, has been in touch to remind us about this year's NFBR conference, to be held jointly with ALERC. The title of this year's event is 'Think globally, record locally – effective biological recording at the scale needed' and it takes place in Nottingham, with a conference on Friday 5th May and choice of two field excursions on Saturday 6th May. Details and a booking form are now available here

Martin Harvey of NFBR said "Thanks to carefully designed national recording schemes, novel data analysis methods, innovative use of technology and the efforts of thousands of dedicated recorders, we have a reasonably good understanding of the state of the UK’s biodiversity and the need for conservation action.  But do we have the data we need to inform decision-making at the range of geographic scales necessary to protect species and habitats?" Find out at the 2017 NFBR and ALERC Conference.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Celebrating the life of J.D. Hooker

J.D. Hooker
Image courtesy of Kew Gardens
Many thanks to Mark Nesbitt at Kew Gardens for alerting us to "The Making of Modern Botany", a one day meeting to celebrate the life and work of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker P.R.S., Victorian botanist, plant hunter and Director of Kew Gardens.

The celebration takes place on 30th June 2017, 9.30am to 5.30pm, with an evening event 6pm to 7pm, at the Jodrell Lecture Theatre, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Mark says "This event will appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of science, particularly botany, botanical illustration, exploration and empire. It will also present an attractive programme for those interested in the history of Kew Gardens as well as scientific work being carried out today at Kew and beyond.

"There will be a varied programme of talks and an opportunity to see Joseph Hooker collections behind the scenes at Kew. Leading scholars and researchers will consider Joseph Hooker's place in the history of science as well as his continuing influence on current botanical research in related fields. There will be lunchtime tours, including behind the scenes in the archive, the Herbarium and highlights of material on Joseph Hooker.

"Delegates are invited to an evening event at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art (from 6pm) for a chance to see 'Joseph Hooker: Putting plants in their place', an exhibition showcasing Joseph Hooker's work through Kew's unique historic collections.

"Price: £25 adults. £15 students. Prices includes entry to the Gardens, lunch and refreshments as well as evening view of the exhibition 'Joseph Hooker: Putting plants in their place'. The evening view of the exhibition is included in the event price (but please make sure you select the ticket that includes this option when booking your ticket).

"Further details and booking information can be found here and any queries directed here."

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Welsh "'Domesday Book" of plants: part two

BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker
talks about Rare Plant Registers
Image: P. Spencer-Vellacott 
Postscript to yesterday's report about the event in Aberystwyth to mark Wales becoming the first country in the world to publish a Rare Plant Register for every county. 

BSBI Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott appeared on BBC Radio Wales yesterday evening to talk about Rare Plant Registers. You can catch the interview here (starts at 1hr 54 minutes in).

You can also read Polly's write-up of the day's proceedings here on her blog.

Don't forget that you can download many of the Rare Plant Registers, either from the relevant county webpage or from this page, which also has details of the Registers which are only available as books to purchase.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Welsh “Domesday Book” of plants is world’s first

Wales has just become the first country in the world to have a complete record of its rare flowering plants and ferns. BSBI's aim has been to compile a county-by-county register of every single rare plant species in every county in Britain and Ireland

We started on this project almost 40 years ago, and you can see how we're getting on in the map on the right and on this page. But the fact that Wales got there first is due in no small part to the help and support we've received from Natural Resources Wales (and its predecessor bodies) and from Andy Jones, Higher Plant Specialist at NRW and (of course) a longstanding BSBI member.

No such detailed account of a nation’s flora exists in any other country in the world and today this “Domesday Book” of the plant world will be celebrated at an event at Aberystwyth University, with presentations by BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI Welsh Officer Dr Polly Spencer-Vellacott and of course Andy Jones. 

Polly said: "Wales came up with the idea of County Rare Plant Registers (RPRs) in Cardiganshire in 1978, and it has now spread to all parts of Britain and Ireland. But this is the first time that any country has achieved this kind of complete coverage and it’s wonderful that volunteers across Wales have done all this work.”

Purple saxifrage
Image: O. Duffy
People working in plant conservation can now identify sites for rare plants in all the counties in WalesOver the years the RPRs have progressed from hand-written lists through typescripts and spreadsheets to databases on home computers to, finally, a web-based picture of the rare plants for the whole of Wales.

During this time, the work of BSBI volunteers has been supported by grants and staff support from NRW and its predecessor organisations.

The Rare Plant Registers confirm that Wales has an extraordinary diversity of natural features. It shows that it’s possible, in plant terms, to walk from the Mediterranean to the Arctic - from golden samphire at Newborough on Anglesey to purple saxifrage on the Carneddau mountains in Snowdonia.

Polly & BSBI's bilingual banner
Image courtesy of
P. Spencer-Vellacott 
Dr Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “NRW is proud to support such a monumental project. Over the years, we have provided funding for BSBI to continue this important work. While many of these rare plants are in decline, every single species plays an important role in the fabric of our natural environment - they are an important part of our environment, our identity and our economy. It is vital that we work to protect our wildlife and halt these declines. The register gives us comprehensive and accurate evidence, which in turn means that NRW can provide the best possible advice on rare plants and the issues that could affect them.”

Dr John Faulkner, BSBI President, said: "Completing the full set of county Rare Plant Registers for Wales is an important landmark. No other country has such a complete assessment of the state of its wild flowers. The authors and contributors are to be congratulated on this magnificent achievement.”

The county Rare Plant Registers for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are online and can be viewed at http://bsbi.org/rare-plant-registers. For media contacts, the press release is here. So the only question now is: which country will be the second to have a complete set?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The State of Nature in Oxfordshire

Many thanks to Dave Morris, County Recorder for Oxfordshire, who sent us this guest blogpost:

"Oxfordshire (V.C. 23 and part V.C. 22) now has its own State of Nature report, published by the charity Wild Oxfordshire, available here. Launched at Blenheim Palace on Tuesday, the report, like its national counterpart, provides a review of the conservation status of the county’s habitats and species. It draws on the expertise of the many conservation, natural history and biological recording organisations in the county (222 apparently), including our two botanical groups, the Oxfordshire and Wychwood Flora Groups.

"I confess to not having read the national State of Nature reports, probably because the headlines which seem so very obvious and depressing to a naturalist are all that penetrate the media. However, the Oxfordshire State of Nature report is remarkably positive. Of course, there are the familiar losses and declines, and these are clearly emphasised, but what comes through is how rich in wildlife the county remains. 

Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris
Image: J.A. Webb
"Notwithstanding the depredations of modernity, Oxfordshire is still a stronghold for many rare and threatened habitats, including internationally important limestone and floodplain grasslands, and our tiny rich-fens, crucial habitats for Apium repens, Salvia pratensis and Viola persicifolia, among others. [LM: You can download a Species Account for Apium repens here.]

"The State of Nature in Oxfordshire was clearly written with policy-makers in mind, and Lawton’s mantra of ‘more, bigger, better, joined’ appears several times. This is a simple message with great imaginative appeal and over thirty pages of the report show how its vision of a wildlife-rich countryside is being realised in the county.

Carrying out practical conservation work
 for Blysmus compressus.
Dave Morris (far right); Judy (foreground left).
Image: J.A. Webb
Case studies range from the landscape partnership of RSPB and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust to manage the upper Thames and its tributaries, to the efforts of farmers and foresters to use the land in a sustainable way, and the work of small groups to conserve rare plants in the county (e.g. Blysmus compressus described on my blog). [LM: you can download a Species Account for Blysmus compressus here.]

"All this work shows that local people can see the ‘bigger picture’ of wildlife and society – in these uncertain political times let’s hope that the State of Nature in Oxfordshire report will catch the imagination of government too".

Thanks Dave - great to hear some good news about people working together to help our wild plants! Congratulations to all of you on the publication of this report.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Irish BSBI conference: last chance to book!

Dactylorhiza kerryensis var. occidentale
Irish botanists are gearing up for one of the highlights of the year - the Irish BSBI conference takes place in Dublin this Saturday at the National Botanic Gardens and it looks an absolute corker, whether you're an experienced botanist or an absolute beginner!

The day kicks off with Ian Denholm (who wears many hats but is also one of BSBI's two expert referees for orchids) talking about Dactylorhiza in Ireland. Having attended one of Ian's orchid talks, I can promise you that he makes even beginner botanists feel that identification of these beautiful but notoriously tricky wildflowers is actually... well, if not easy then at least not impossible!

The Rough Crew in action
With workshops and identification sessions on rushes, aquatics and other tricky taxa throughout the day, and an ID table where you can bring along difficult specimens and pick the brains of some of Ireland's finest botanists, delegates should leave the conference feeling that they've learned a huge amount - as well as having a really fun day in great company!

Also on the menu are talks about Atlas 2020, the celebrated C20th Irish botanist David Webb, the famous Irish Rough Crew and a chance to meet and network with County Recorders from across Ireland, such as the new team in County Cork: Clare, Edwina and Finbarr.

We've extended the booking deadline to give everybody a chance to book - but you'll need to move quickly! Just head over here and get your payment in by Thursday. 

There's a special low rate if you're a student or unwaged, and there's also a reduced rate for County Recorders (a wee thank you for all the amazing work they do!). But even if you have to pay the full non-members' rate - well, at 30 euros for the whole day it's still an amazing bargain!

If you really can't make it, you'll be able to follow all the action via the event's Twitter hashtag #IrishBSBIConference but there's no substitute for being there with all the friendly Irish botanists. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Nitrogen deposition and 'native thugs'

Harebell
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
Our colleagues at Plantlife have been on radio and TV today spreading the word about how Nitrogen pollution is impacting on our wild flowers.   

Dr Trevor Dines (Plantlife's Botanical Specialist and a longtime BSBI member) blogged about this here, and if you click here you can catch his interview on BBC Breakfast this morning. Starts at 1 hour 21 minutes in.

You can also catch this interview with Jenny Hawley of Plantlife on this morning's Today programme on BBC Radio 4 (starts at 1 hour 24 minutes in), or download Plantlife's report here. You can also see what Trevor had to say in the Huffington Post a few hours ago, or check out how the story was covered in The Telegraph and The Scotsman

BSBI members may also want to check out this paper by Rob Marrs et al. published in 2013 in New Journal of Botany, which flags up the impact 'native thugs' like nettles are having on the ground flora of our woodlands.  

As Trevor pointed out on BBC Breakfast, one of the plants affected by the Nitrogen-loving 'thugs' is the delicate Harebell, once a common wildflower and now classified as Near Threatened on the England Red List

Celebrating the life of Jean Bowden

Jean Bowden
Image reproduced from the Alton Herald.
Spotted in yesterday's Alton Herald - an obituary of Jean Bowden, who held various posts at Kew during a period when such opportunities were hard to come by for female botanists. 

She was higher scientific officer at Kew Museums of Economic Botany, from which she was apparently the first woman to be sent abroad on a field excursion. Jean was also the author of a book on John Lightfoot, whose herbarium specimens she worked on while at Kew. 

Later on she "worked in the editorial department of the Kew Bulletin 1984" and ended her career by becoming the curator of Jane Austen's house

Do click on the links and enjoy reading about Jean Bowden's fascinating career, whether cycling twenty miles a day to the Herbarium at Kew, or making sure that the cut flowers in Jane Austen's house were historically accurate!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

State of the World's Plants 2017

Abstract submissions for State of the World’s Plants 2017 is now open! The Symposium will be held at RBG Kew from 25th –26th May 2017.

Now in its second year,The State of the World’s Plants Symposium coincides with the publication of a cutting-edge annual report highlighting our current knowledge of the Earth’s plant diversity, the global threats that plants face and the policies dealing with them.

Abstracts are invited from delegates wishing to present a poster and a one-minute oral presentation. Prizes will be awarded for the best early career researcher posters.
Deadline for abstract submissions: Friday 21 April 2017

You can also register now to attend. The cost is £150 and this includes lunch and refreshments on both days, a drinks reception and behind the scenes tours of Kew’s collections.
Deadline for registration: Tuesday 25 April 2017

For more information, to submit an abstract or to register for the meeting, please visit: www.kew.org/sotwp-symposium 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Botanical University Challenge

The Edge Hill team, breakfasted
 and awaiting entrance to 
the Jodrell lab at Kew.
Paul Ashton of Edge Hill University tells us about Botanical University Challenge, which took place last year and is happening again this autumn. If you are interested in taking part, please get in touch with Paul.

"University Challenge typically involves images of knowledgeable young men and women sweating worriedly under the combined glare of the studio lights and Paxman’s questions. 

It was with the aim of imparting such torture and of raising the profile of botany in UK universities that Jonathan Mitchley and John Warren developed the idea of Botanical University Challenge last year.

As a result of this initiative, the early hours of 10th March 2016 saw a car load of expectant students leave Edge Hill University with their Head of Department cum chauffeur. Discussion along the way predominantly focused upon the meaning of scientific Latin and speculation about what other rounds may feature. That and which services we were stopping at for breakfast.

Cards all ready, awaiting the draw!
Once breakfasted and arrived we joined similarly expectant teams from Aberystwyth, Kew, Reading and Southampton, ready to do practised battle. Rounds did feature botanical Latin alongside a full range of other areas; plants in the bible, plants and drinks, Welsh common names – the clue was in the descriptions - and a round or two on identification.

James Wong proved a friendly, less intimidating question master than Jeremy Paxman. He also added his own twists to various rounds by adding snippets of information to any ethnobotanical round and providing a final arbiter of the suitability of some questions, “next round is sedge identification, who thought that was a good idea? That’s too difficult, we aren’t having that. Let’s go to the next set of questions”!

The Edge Hill team in action
There were undoubtedly some very knowledgeable individuals representing the various institutions. Though handling the pressure and knowing when to hit the bell were equally important. 

All teams acquainted themselves well before Reading emerged eventual winners. Edge Hill’s pain at failure was eased by one of our graduates appearing on the victorious team. Although, we haven’t forgiven him for such treachery!

The teams are introduced to the audience
Thanks go to RBG Kew for hosting and to Jonathan and John for organising. We look forward to the next one in November 2017. We have already started revising our botanical Latin and our plants in Shakespeare. Roll on autumn".

Thanks to Paul for telling us about Botanical University Challenge. Don't forget to get in touch with him if you would like to take part this autumn. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

New BSBI Handbook for Violas: have you ordered your copy yet?

Sweet Violet
Image: Mike Porter
The latest addition to the BSBI Handbooks series is due out in March 2017 but BSBI members can now order Violas of Britain & Ireland (BSBI Handbook No. 17) at a special pre-publication price of £10 per copy (plus £2 postage & packing for Britain & Ireland). 

After 31st March, the book will be available at the full price of £15 so the pre-publication offer represents a saving of one third off!

The authors, Mike Porter and Mike Foley, will be well-known to BSBI members - they have both given many years of service to BSBI, as expert plant referees, on our Publications Committee, and (in Mike Porter's case) as our Plant Records Editor, responsible for the lists of new plant records which appear in New Journal of Botany.  


Heath Dog-violet
Image: Mike Porter
The Handbook deals with 15 species and 11 hybrids of Viola (violets and pansies) and for each one there are species descriptions, illustrated keys, distribution maps, colour photographs, detailed line drawings showing diagnostic characters, notes on habitat requirements and conservation, first records in Britain & Ireland, related facts... if you are a fan of violets and/or pansies, you are going to want this book!

If you are a BSBI member, just head over to the members-only area to order your copy now, and in a few weeks you will have the pleasure of opening up BSBI's latest Handbook and knowing that identifying violets and pansies is about to get a whole lot easier!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Elm trees on the Isle of Man saved by bad weather!

Dutch Elm at Ballachrink, Isle of Man
Image: P. Davey
A paper published in the latest issue of New Journal of Botany suggests that thousands of healthy elm trees on the Isle of Man have avoided infection by Dutch elm disease thanks to the island's weather being too cold and windy for the pathogen to take hold. 


The island has an estimated 300,000 elms and only around one per cent of them have been lost to Dutch elm disease since the fungal pathogen was first noticed on the Island in 1992. This is a very different picture from that seen on the British mainland, where the disease has eradicated between 25-75 million trees since the 1970s.

Dutch Elm (top), English Elm (below)
Image: M. Coleman
Dr Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was the lead author on the paper and said "The weather appears to be the key to understanding the remarkable survival of these elms thanks to the way it controls dispersal of the beetles that spread disease. Dutch elm disease is a fungus that hitchhikes on the bodies of tiny elm bark beetles and is completely reliant on them to get from tree to tree. These beetles are fairly harmless to the tree on their own. However, when they are covered in spores of the deadly fungus they can potentially infect healthy trees.

“We know the beetles need a temperature of at least 20 degrees to fly and if wind speed exceeds five metres per second flight is inhibited. By analysing local weather data from 1995 to 2015 we found that only one year out of 20 could be regarded as a good year for the beetles and the disease to spread".

The findings of the research have major implications for the future of elms on the Isle of Man. Dr Philippa Tomlinson, BSBI County Recorder for the Isle of Man and of Manx Biodiversity, the partnership organisation that provides a biological records service to the Isle of Man Government, said: "Understanding that the island's elms are likely to be just as vulnerable as elms elsewhere highlights the importance of measures to control Dutch elm disease. Although the cooler and windier conditions experienced on the Isle of Man appear to have kept disease at bay, this cannot be relied upon in the future with the uncertainties of climate change."

Dutch Elm, East Baldwin Valley,
 Isle of Man
Image: P. Davey
Ian Denholm, Editor-in-Chief of New Journal of Botany, concluded: “Combining research on elm genetics with consideration of beetle ecology has led to a convincing and elegant explanation of why the spread of disease has been constrained in the Isle of Man compared with much of the UK. Such inter-disciplinary studies highlight the extreme importance of understanding how climate affects interactions between organisms as well as its impact on individual species. 

"Elms are a complex group; unambiguous identification of types present also helps ensure the accuracy of BSBI’s database of plant records encompassing the whole of Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.”.

New Journal of Botany is usually only available to BSBI members and institutional subscribers - it is one of the perks of membership! - but our publishers, Taylor & Francis, have kindly made this paper available to everybody until the end of March. Just click here to read the paper.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sad news for botanists and birders

Both the birding and botanical worlds are saddened to hear of the sudden and shocking death of Eric Meek. 

Eric Meek and Poa alpina on Ward Hill
Image: Ian Denholm
Eric served for many years as the RSPB’s area manager on Orkney, where he conducted pioneering research on the nature and causes of declines in seabird populations. He was also a highly proficient botanist and a fount of knowledge on the Orkney flora. He and John Crossley (BSBI’s County Recorder for Orkney) co-led a BSBI visit to the islands in 2010, attended by former BSBI President Ian Denholm among others. 

Ian recalls that "one day was earmarked for a visit to the island of Hoy. Despite utterly dismal weather and thick mist, Eric led half the group at a brisk pace over challenging terrain to the summit of Ward Hill, the highest point in the Orkney Islands. 

"Once at the top with scarcely any visibility, he proceeded to cross a small chasm and climb to the top of an isolated pinnacle to check on the status of Orkney’s only known clump of Alpine Meadow-grass, Poa alpina". 

As Ian’s photo attests, no-one was tempted to follow in Eric's footsteps!

We extend sincere condolences to Eric’s widow Aileen and other family members. He will be hugely missed.