The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) carried out the project, dubbed the Plant Atlas 2020, with the assistance of nearly 8,500 volunteers who assessed locations throughout 99% of the UK and Ireland.
The botanists identified 3,495 plant species among over 30 million records, 1,692 of which are native to Britain and 1,753 of which are not. Botanists identified 1,939 plant species in Ireland, 952 of which were indigenous.
In Britain, Wales, and Scotland, 53% of native species saw declines, whereas, in Ireland, 56% of native flora species experienced declines in range, abundance, or both. Botanists found 1,939 plant species in Ireland, the majority of which were alien.
The third and most thorough study conducted by BSBI is called Plant Atlas 2020. surveying botanists from 2000 to 2019. The findings demonstrated how species distributions have evolved since the 1950s, with most native species and neophytes, or new introductions, rising and archaeophytes, or ancient introductions, dropping.
As a typical commercial forestry species, the Sitka Spruce, a conifer native to North America, was discovered to have the largest anticipated range growth.
The Wildlife Trusts’ chief executive, Craig Bennett, said in a statement that the disappearance of our stunning native plants is tragic and affects all of us. For wildflowers and all the creatures that depend on them, including insects, bats, and birds, the loss of natural habitats as a result of modern farming practices over the past 70 years has been an unmitigated catastrophe.
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In the UK and Ireland, the loss of natural species like Heather, Harebell, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Agrimony, Field Gentian, Marsh Lousewort, Globeflower, Grass-of-Parnassus, and Corn Marigold was attributed primarily to agriculture. The decline of native plants and the expansion of the range and/or abundance of non-native plants are both caused by habitat loss, nitrogen fertilizers, overfertilization, and reseeding.
Climate change was identified as a likely factor in the decline of native species that depend on snow cover but are losing habitat due to competition from non-native, warm-weather species in mountainous regions and peatlands. These species include Alpine Lady-fern, Alpine Speedwell, and Snow Pearlwort. The potential of peatlands to store carbon has also been hampered by the growth of Sitka spruce.
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There are many things we can do to stop these declines, but the most crucial ones are to strengthen the protection plants receive, expand the habitat that is available to them, and prioritize their needs above all else in nature preservation, according to Kevin Walker, co-author of Plant Atlas 2020 and the head of science at BSBI.
Also, we must make sure that our land, water, and soil are managed more sustainably to support the growth of plants and the animals who depend on them for food and shelter.