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A Day Volunteering at Plantlife’s Deep Dale Nature Reserve

Find out what it’s like to volunteer at one of our nature reserves. Jim Whiteford describes a day working outdoors, protecting and restoring nature in Deep Dale, Derbyshire.

person smiling

I’m Jim, an Ecologist at the walking and cycling charity Sustrans. As Sustrans are committed to supporting sustainability across the UK, I’m encouraged to spend at least one day a year volunteering for a charity which is making a difference either by improving the environment or peoples’ lives.

The day starts with

I met up with Andy Kearsey and other members of the Plantlife Reserve Team to help-out at their fantastic Deepdale Reserve, in Derbyshire. After a useful and friendly introduction about what Plantlife do and the reserve itself, we cracked on with clearing areas of hawthorn, blackthorn and dog rose scrub using a selection of hand tools supplied by the team.

Andy explained how the area we were working in was managed using conservation grazing and that by cutting back the scrub this would help the cattle to do an ever-better job.

 

Lemon Drizzle

After working hard, I was then treated to some fantastic lemon drizzle cake and had an opportunity to find out more about the great work Plantlife are doing across all their reserves.

The day ends with

When we finished stacking away the scrub we had cleared, Andy and his colleagues  took me on a guided tour of the reserve.

It was great to learn about the rich archaeological history of the site and see firsthand the fantastic range of valuable habitats Plantlife are working hard to protect and improve.

It was fun to spend a day outside, with a gang of positive and friendly people helping to make a great place even better; I also appreciated the chance to beat my daily step count and get some exercise at the same time!

I hope to be able to get involved again over the summer at another reserve.

Deap Dale Nature Reserve

Deap Dale Nature Reserve

The reserve, located in the Peak District national Park is a special place if you visit at the right time of the year you would see colour spreading over the hill side.

Volunteer with us

Volunteer with us

Volunteer with Plantlife and help us in practical conservation work or by data entry and research, or even campaigning and advocacy work.

Stories
person holding a plant with white flowers

Stories

Read our other stories about plants and fungi conservation and the human behind them.

Wild plants and fungi are the essential fabric of our world.

They provide shelter, food, medicines, clean air and a wealth of health benefits to humans and animals alike.

Yet 54% of plant species are in decline and 28% of known fungi are threatened with extinction. Centuries of habitat loss, development and persecution through changes in land use and the effects of climate change have led to the UK being among the world’s most nature-depleted nations.

You can use your vote to give plants and fungi a voice at the 2024 general election on 4 July. 

What you can do

  • Join the Restore Nature Now march in London on 22 June
  • Follow the #Nature2030 campaign for other calls to action
  • Tell candidates that you stand with nature and that you expect politicians and governments to work together for our shared environment
    • Send a short, polite email
    • Attend local hustings
  • Ask your friends, family and colleagues to take action
  • Share our messages via social media- tag local nature groups, candidates, and us on Twitter/X  ,  Instagram , and/or on Facebook with #Nature2030
  • Support Plantlife – join our events, survey work or through donations

With upcoming global environment commitments and nature recovery targets being set in all UK nations, we need determined and rapid action by politicians to reverse the fortunes of our wildlife.

Restore Nature Now

Plantlife is joining forces with 100 other conservation charities in the Nature 2030 campaign calling for five key actions by the next UK Government:

  1. A pay rise for nature and farmers: Doubling the nature-friendly farming budget to £6bn.
  2. Making polluters pay:  Putting a Nature Recovery Obligation on polluting big businesses into law to counter the damage they cause.
  3. More space for nature by 2030:  A rapid delivery programme to fulfil the promise to protect and manage 30% of the land and sea for nature.
  4. Delivering the green jobs we need:  A National Nature Service, delivering wide-scale habitat restoration and creating thousands of green jobs.
  5. A Right to a Healthy Environment:  Establishing a human right to clean air and water and access to nature.

What difference could this make?

The Nature 2030 actions, if delivered by the next government, would go a long way towards bringing endangered plants and fungi back from the brink of extinction, and restoring our unique, species-rich habitats, such as grasslands and temperate rainforests in England.

These will also help to tackle climate change, create a green economy and improve our own health and wellbeing.

We already work tirelessly across the UK to influence and inspire farmers, local communities and other land managers to help create a world rich in wild plants and fungi. Many aspects of environmental law and policy are devolved. But we need all political parties and all nations’ governments to make things happen at a bigger scale and a faster pace, to bring back our wildlife.

King Charles III became Plantlife’s patron in 1999 when he was HRH Prince of Wales, and his devotion and passion for championing conservation and defending nature has had a galvanising impact on our work.

His passion for species-rich grasslands has brought about significant impact, particularly in our work to restore and expand meadows. From his own meadow at Highgrove, to the Queen’s Meadow in Green Park, London, King Charles has done so much to highlight the value and vulnerability of these special habitats that Plantlife speaks up for.

In 2009 our Patron contributed an urgent forward to our Ghost Orchid Declaration report, ringing the alarm for plant extinctions. Our Patron’s message that “we must rediscover an essential understanding of the role of wild plants of sustaining wellbeing of life on this planet, both physical and spiritual” rings true today.

In 2012 Plantlife published the seminal report Our Vanishing Flora, highlighting how 80 species of wild plants that existed in Britain in the 17th Century had become extinct. Half of those were lost since the 1950s. The sobering Plantlife report caught the eye of the then HRH The Prince of Wales, whose family has shown an enduring passion for preserving nature.

Inspired by the rallying call from our Patron on the 60th anniversary of the Coronation, the Coronation Meadows project was born. The Coronation Meadows conservation partnership project, between Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, was launched at Highgrove in 2013 by HRH The Prince of Wales and pioneered a path to the long-term creation and restoration of species-rich grasslands.

In recent years, our Patron’s backing has continued to energise our efforts. In February 2020 he held a reception at Highgrove to celebrate Plantlife’s 30th anniversary and endorsed our Strategy to 2030.

In 2021, Plantlife and our partners at Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Butterfly Conservation were thrilled thatGrasslands+ – our joint effort to raise the urgency to protect and restore global grasslands at COP-26 was chosen as a case study in the very first annual report from theTerra Carta our Patron’s mandate to put Nature, People and Planet at the heart of the private sector.  

In January 2023, Plantlife was delighted to be chosen as one of seven organisations to be awarded a Strategic Partnerships grant from King Charles III Charitable Fund, allowing us to launch our Science and Impact programme to demonstrate impact, share organisational learning and develop our research networks.

We are very much looking forward to having His Majesties support in years to come, as we know how crucial it is that we protect and restore nature.

 

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

We are calling on governments and the horticultural industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture.

Peatlands and their wild plants in Britain, Ireland and beyond continue to be devastated by the commercial extraction of peat. Damaging peatlands has a knock-on effect on wildlife, carbon stores, flood risk and water quality.

It’s time we stopped this destructive practice through new laws to ban peat sales.

Although governments across the UK have promised to do this and many believe that it is already banned, there are still no laws against selling peat.

Plantlife and its partners in the Peat-free Partnership are campaigning for legislation to ban the use of peat in horticulture in all four nations without further delay.

Our governments’ next steps will decide the fate of our precious peatlands. When will they finally mark the end of a decades-long debate and the beginning of a future where peat is left undisturbed for nature, people, and the planet?

Not ‘if’, but ‘when’

Despite tireless campaigning to stop peat extraction and persuade gardeners to go peat-free, vast quantities of peat from bogs in Ireland, the Baltic states and the UK every year is still used by amateur gardeners and professional horticulturalists each year.

However, with an ever-mounting body of evidence documenting the environmental toll of peat extraction, government commitments and clear public support for a ban, the question is finally not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

A ban on all commercial trade in peat across the UK is needed to provide:

  • A legal requirement to end peat use, as repeated voluntary targets have been consistently missed.
  • A level playing-field for the market, so that peat-free companies don’t lose out to their competitors who take advantage of lower prices for peat than alternative materials.
  • An end to imports and exports of peat, protecting peatlands in other countries as well here in the UK.
  • A catalyst for sustainable gardening and horticulture overall, moving away from reliance on raw materials and artificial inputs, and towards ‘greener’ gardening and a circular economy.

What is peat?

Peat is plant material which is partially decomposed and has accumulated in waterlogged conditions.

Peatlands include moors, bogs and fens, as well as some farmed land.

Peat bogs are particular types of wetlands waterlogged by direct rainfall. Peat bogs grow slowly, accumulating around 0.5 to 1 mm of peat each year, and the water prevents the plants from decomposing. As a result, many areas of UK peat bog have been accumulating gradually for as much as 10,000 years, and can be up to 10m deep. Due to its slow accumulation, peat is often classified as a fossil fuel.

Commercial peat extraction in the UK and Ireland is largely from raised bogs in the lowlands.

Much less peat comes from blanket bog, which is much thinner and more often found in the uplands in Scotland and western parts of the UK.

Why is peat important?

Peatlands are home to some of the UK’s most distinctive plant communities. Diverse organisms have evolved in response to the low-nutrient conditions which has led to some remarkable adaptations, like the insect-eating sundews and butterworts, and the spongy blankets of colourful sphagnum mosses.

Peatlands are also one of our most important terrestrial carbon sinks. But, when bogs are drained or the peat is exploited, the peat is exposed to the air and begins to break down, releasing carbon dioxide. This turns a huge carbon store into a vast emitter, contributing to climate change.

Peat bogs also act like a sponge, soaking up rainwater, and can help to reduce flood risk. Water filtered through healthy peat bogs is of a higher quality than water from degraded bogs, making it cheaper to treat as drinking water.

Other plants to find in peatlands such as Plantlife’s  Munsary reserve in Scotland include cotton grasses, bog asphodel, rare sedges, cuckooflower, marsh violet, marsh cinquefoil and marsh willowherb. These support a range of butterflies, dragonflies and birds, including snipe and curlews, merlins and skylarks.

Where does horticultural peat come from?

In 2015 more than half of peat used for horticulture in the UK came from the Republic of Ireland, where peat is extracted on a large scale for horticulture and for burning to produce heat and electricity. As peat extraction has declined in the UK, we have increased imports from Ireland, effectively exporting much of the environmental impact.

So what’s the problem?

Put simply, our current use of peat is unsustainable.

  • Peat ‘grows’ by only a millimetre a year
  • Commercial extraction can remove over 500 years worth of ‘growth’ in a single year
  • Amateur gardening accounts for 69% of peat compost used in the UK – we currently use some three billion litres of peat every year in our gardens
  • 32% of our peat comes from the UK, 60% from Ireland and 8% from Europe

Alternatives to peat

  • The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is demonstrating what’s possible; its gardens are now 97% peat-free and it is committed to reducing peat use wherever practicable
  • The RHS also provides advice on what to look for in peat-free alternatives
  • Many of the National Trust’s gardens have been peat-free for years
  • Gardening Which? Compost trials uncover great peat-free products

What can I do to help protect peatlands?

  • Make your own compost from garden cuttings & food waste if you have space.
  • Only buy peat-free compost and potted plants and encourage your friends and family to go peat-free.
  • Write to your MP, MSP or MS to raise concern about the need for more urgent action by the government and industry.
  • Support Plantlife  and our work towards peat-free horticulture.

Today is Nature Day at the climate COP28 in Dubai. Having just spent a week at the conference, I’m taking the chance to reflect on the role of nature in these huge global negotiations.

It was my first UN Climate conference and a truly eye-opening experience. With around 100,000 participants from around the world and all sectors, I was able to listen to and connect with a huge diversity of new people, as well as our NGO partners in the global Climate Action Network.

When we say ‘nature’, what do we really mean?

One of Plantlife’s ambitions for COP28 is to see greater recognition of nature as a powerful part of the solution to climate change, as these crises are intrinsically linked. We know that wild plants and fungi are the foundation of all ecosystems and our natural world.

So, when we say ‘nature’, we mean wild plants and fungi – I said this to many people in Dubai, giving them pause for thought. Plants and fungi are so often seen as just a green backdrop to other wildlife, yet they deserve a place in spotlight on Nature Day.

We are calling for COP28 decisions that put wild plants, fungi and all nature at the heart of climate action. To make this really work, we need to see joined up working between the UN climate convention and the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), agreed through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In practice, this means that governments need to cross-reference their net zero and climate adaptation plans with their biodiversity strategies, including by delivering the global plant actions as part of the GBF.

Listening to Indigenous Peoples when we talk about nature

On my last night in Dubai, I chose a side event to attend at random and it was the best, most meaningful one I went to that week. It was organised by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) on women implementing climate justice solutions.

At climate COPs, it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, the scale of the conference itself and sometimes being star-struck with the high-profile climate influencers in attendance. But this event was held by Indigenous women and was incredibly powerful and emotive.

The speakers shared their lived experience of what it’s like to be on the frontline of fighting a global crisis.

This is a global crisis that Indigenous Peoples played no hand in creating, yet which has had an often-horrifying impact on their relationship with nature. They are also rarely given a role in the solutions.

One speaker, when referencing the CBD slogan of ‘living in harmony with nature’, said how shocking it is that Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge was not being called to the forefront of decision-making – when these are decisions about the natural world with which they have always lived in absolute harmony and balance.

The UN states that at least a quarter of the world’s land area is owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous Peoples and so the fate of nature, our climate and Indigenous Peoples is deeply interlinked.

There are signs of hope. Brazilian President Lula da Silva handed an opportunity to speak at a COP event to their Minister of Environment, Marina Silva. Having grown up in the forests of Brazil, she has a deep personal understanding of how Indigenous communities depend on the forests and live in them. The Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Minister, Sonia Guajajara, is leading the country’s negotiating team after the President left the conference. This is a small step towards doing the right thing, despite the President facing criticism and winning the Fossil of the Day Award earlier this week for announcing the expansion of oil production.

Small steps? We need giant strides.

The alarming speed and scale of climate change and biodiversity loss demands urgent and large-scale action. Small steps are not enough. We are looking for strong and ambitious action on nature and climate from the world’s governments at COP28.

The CoP 28 Presidency set out 4 pillars in its COP28 Action Plan – one being ‘focusing on people, nature, lives and livelihoods’ and another ‘fostering full inclusivity’. These are essential foundations for action, harnessing the power of nature and Indigenous People’s knowledge to create a liveable world for future generations.

Watch this space…

One of the key connections between people and nature is farming – we all need to eat! Tomorrow is Food Day at COP28 so look out for our blog on the role of grasslands and savannahs in supporting food security, livelihoods, biodiversity and carbon storage.

Covering more than half the Earth’s land, with around 800 million people being dependant on them globally for their livelihoods and food, and their ability to hold up to 35% of the Earth’s land carbon, they really fit the bill. Yet somehow grasslands remain undervalued and overlooked compared to forests and oceans.

See how Plantlife is working with WWF and others to highlight these critical ecosystems.

Claire 

img:istock/Guilherme de Melo

COP28

The Importance of Grasslands Globally
Briefing Document

The Importance of Grasslands Globally

This WWF & Plantlife document makes the case for the world to recognise the vital role that grasslands and savannahs can play in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises.

Planting Plant Conservation at the Core of COP28 Climate Talks
Press Release

Planting Plant Conservation at the Core of COP28 Climate Talks

We are teaming up with WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature) at COP28 to press for better recognition of grasslands and savannahs, alongside other habitats.

We are Heading to Dubai for Global Climate Talks
BlogPerson wearing a hat smiling

We are Heading to Dubai for Global Climate Talks

Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change

Wild Plants and Fungi are at the Heart of Climate Crisis
Our PositionA Marbled White butterfly sitting on a clover in a meadow

Wild Plants and Fungi are at the Heart of Climate Crisis

At Plantlife, we are focused in gaining recognition for grassland ecosystems around the world as nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. Storing between 25-35% of the world’s terrestrial carbon, they are an underutilised resource.

As I pack my bags and head off to Dubai, I wanted to share a few thoughts about what’s at stake at the climate COP and what role Plantlife can play at this huge global event. So, what is COP 28?

It’s the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Given the urgency of tackling climate change, these meetings of the world’s governments happen every year; two years ago, COP26 was hosted by the UK in Glasgow.

What’s happening and why do we care?

This COP will be a pivotal moment for the planet and people around the world will be watching closely. At the conference, the first Global Stocktake will take place – this is where Parties will report on their progress towards slashing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (also known as the Paris Agreement, adopted back in 2016).

We already know that progress needs to go faster and further – we are currently heading for about 2.5°C of warming by 2100, even if current pledges to tackle emissions are achieved. So, at COP28 we need to see governments commit to taking more action to cut emissions – and fast.

Alongside that, we’re calling for the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation to be finalised with references to nature and the vital role it will play in ensuring we adapt to the impacts of climate change.

What does COP28 have to do with our work at Plantlife?

Well, the first reason is that climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the greatest challenges we’re facing globally, and they are intrinsically linked. There is simply no way to look at one crisis without considering the other.

Wild plants and fungi underpin all life on earth, they provide us with oxygen, food and fibres for our clothes, fuel, medicines and building materials. But on top of all of that, they are also a powerful force to tackle climate change; much of Plantlife’s work focuses on securing recognition of this. For example:

  • Reports suggest that global grasslands store between 25-35% of terrestrial carbon, with about 90% of that being underground. But they are a drastically unrecognised resource for climate mitigation and adaptation. With around 800 million people around the world dependant on them for their livelihoods and food, we will be pushing for decisions at COP28 which support their sustainable management and restoration to help meet countries’ climate and biodiversity commitments. It will also be the first climate summit to explicitly acknowledge the close interplay between food, land use, and the climate crisis.
  • Temperate rainforests require steady, year-round temperatures and high rainfall. Sadly, this highly specialised habitat area is in danger of being lost forever. The rare lichens, bryophytes, liverworts and ferns of temperate rainforests need us to work globally to save them and keep what makes nature unique.
  • The world’s hotspots for wild plants and fungi, Important Plant Areas (IPAs), are threatened by the impacts of climate change, but they are also essential to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. By conserving and restoring these important areas, they can protect against soil erosion, retain water and in the case of wetland habitats protect against extreme weather events.
  • Peatlands are one of the world’s largest terrestrial carbon stock – storing at least 550 gigatons of carbon globally – more than twice the carbon stored in all the world’s forests. Plantlife’s Munsary nature reserve in Scotland is just one example – and a small part – of this exceptionally important habitat which needs to be protected, managed and restored to help tackle climate change.

And yet..

Despite all the incredible work that is being done worldwide to reduce biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change, it is thought by experts that we are currently in the 6th mass extinction. Latest estimates show that 45 % of flowering plant species could be at risk of extinction. Plant species are going extinct 500 times faster than they would be without the impacts of human activities – and faster than we can describe and name them.

This is the same for fungi, which can be directly affected by shifts in temperature and moisture levels. The overwhelming majority of fungal diversity is directly dependant on plants– whether as beneficial partners, decomposers or parasites – climate-related habitat change that harms plants in turn affects their co-existing fungi.

So what can Plantlife hope to achieve at COP – why are we going?

COP 28 is naturally facing some controversy, and people are understandably voicing concerns about how much will be achieved.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “It’s time to wake up and step up.”

We’re at a pivotal moment worldwide as to whether we will meet the Paris Agreement and we need a global commitment to ‘phase out’ not just ‘phase back’ fossil fuel production; otherwise, the outcomes of this COP may not be strong or ambitious enough to see us reach the 1.5°C goal in time.

Armed with the overwhelming scientific evidence about the critical role that wild plants and fungi can play in climate action, we’ll be speaking up at COP28 in person and online. We’ll be joining forces with partners from around the world to fight for urgent and ambitious action on nature and climate together.

For more than thirty years, Plantlife has spoken up for wild plants and fungi; making our voice heard at a global level has never been more important. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that wild plants and fungi stay at the forefront of governments’ minds when making commitments for climate mitigation, adaptation, and building resilience.

We’re on a mission to raise awareness of how important wild plants and fungi are to life and to inspire more people to take action to help them thrive again and I hope you’ll follow our updates for how the meeting goes, here and on our social media channels!

Claire

The Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii, is one of the most endangered wildflowers in Europe, but successful conservation efforts have given hope for its survival. The orchid is only found in two areas of the UK:

  • Sand dunes in South Wales
  • Fens of the Norfolk Broads.

We believe that the orchid could finally be removed from the Red Lists for both England  and Great Britain.

 

Conservation Efforts in England

After a decade of research and partnership work, the orchid has been re-discovered at former sites in the Broads, and the total population has estimated to have risen to over 15,000 plants through proper management.

The orchid has also been reintroduced to its former sites in Suffolk, and the signs are encouraging that it will become established in some of its old homes.

 

Conservation Efforts in Wales

In South Wales, the conservation effort to restore the fragile dune habitat at Kenfig and to rediscover the plant at former dune locations.

At Kenfig numbers had dropped from a conservative 21,000 at the end of the 1980s to just 400 when conservation work began.

After almost 10 years of work, over 4000 Fen Orchids have been counted, more than double the highest number seen in the last two decades.

The orchids once grew at eight dune sites along the south Wales coast, but a lack of active management led to their disappearance. The success at Kenfig gives hope for other dune sites like Whiteford and Pembrey, the former of which the plant has recently been re-found after searching.

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Brown topped fungus with yellow gills in a green grassy area.

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Reverse the Red

Did you know that more than 90% of fungi are unknown to science?

Throughout February, Plantlife is participating in Reverse the Red’s Fungi month – a chance to better understand the mysterious worlds of some of our rarest fungi species.

Two white mushrooms with tall stems growing out of green moss

What is Reverse the Red?

Reverse the Red is a global movement aimed at raising awareness of the work being done by organisations and communities to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss, ensuring the survival of wild species and ecosystems.

The initiative brings together scientists, advocates, and partners who use data and science-based conservation approaches, with the goal of reducing our rarest species vulnerability, and eventually removing them from the Red list.

What is a Red List?

Red lists are a globally recognised way of listing and identifying the threat of extinction to species. Species are  assessed objectively based on ongoing scientific information and research.

The world’s most comprehensive list is the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are other more local red lists, such as the Great British Red List.

Why do fungi need our help?

Fungi are a crucial partner to nearly all life on Earth, with an estimated 2.5 million species of fungi found around the world. But more than 90% of fungal species are unknown to science. 

This lack of data means it is hard to know if some of these important species need conservation help.

Only 0.4 % of fungi that we know about have had their global conservation status assessed for the IUCN Red List Assessment. That is only 0.02% of the fungi estimated to exist – imagine the amazing species yet to be found!

But we can help fungi.

People around the world are getting outside and recording fungi to help better understand them.

Since the beginning of 2020 more than 10,200 species of fungi have been named as new to science.

This includes 6 new species of webcap uncovered in the UK – 3 in Scotland and 3 in England, such as Cortinarius heatherae, spotted alongside a river beside Heathrow airport. 

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Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow Rattle, is the single most important plant you need when creating a wildflower meadow. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Ashy Mining Bee on a Dandelion.

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Pollinators in the UK are in decline. But there are things you can do to be more pollinator friendly and help these important creatures.

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Sarah Shuttleworth at DNA barcoding course

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It’s not just animals that have DNA in their cells, plants and fungi do too – and understanding it can help us with hard to identify plants.

See what our CEO Ian Dunn has to say on International Biodiversity Day 2023

In December 2022 countries, organisations, and people from around the world gathered in Montreal to see a new global agreement to protect and restore biodiversity adopted at CoP 15.

Plantlife along with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew were there to ensure that plants and fungi were not forgotten. From our joint exhibition stand we spoke passionately to governments, NGOs, research organisations members of Youth Groups and Indigenous communities about the value of wild plants and fungi, and the need to maintain and preserve their extraordinary diversity worldwide.

On the 9 December 2022, we held a side event on Important Plant Areas-a tool for implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework (which you can watch here: Important Plant Areas- a tool for Implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework (CoP15 side event)). Important Plant Areas are an invaluable tool for helping to tackle the ecological, climate and societal crises we are currently facing.

 

The Global Biodiversity Framework must work for wild plants and fungi

We know that life on earth depends on its extraordinary diversity of plants and fungi, yet two in every five wild plants are threatened with extinction.

Far too often, world’s flora and fungi are relegated to a green background for more charismatic wildlife.

Plantlife has been working with partners over the past twenty years to make sure that plant conservation is given priority within global biodiversity agreements. In 2002, this led to the United Nations CBD adopting a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which was updated 10 years later.

We helped establish the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation and coordinated the Important Plant Areas programme – an important tool for achieving Target 5 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation – to protect and manage at least 75 per cent of the most important areas for plant diversity of each ecological region.

The impact of the GSPC and the ongoing importance of specific plant conservation actions was recognised when in Decision 15/5 the Monitoring Framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework the CBD Secretariat:

“Invites the Global Partnership on Plant Conservation, with the support of the Secretariat and subject to the availability of resources, to prepare a set of complementary actions related to plant conservation to support the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and other relevant decisions adopted at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, aligned with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and also based on previous experiences with the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation as described in the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook1 and the 2020 Plant Conservation Report,2 for consideration by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.”

Plantlife is now working closely with members of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation to establish this set of complementary actions.

Ash trees suffering from dieback

One of the biggest issues facing our nature reserves is the ongoing management of Ash trees suffering from dieback – Augill is no different as the woodland there is about 10% Ash. Some of the ash trees were identified through our tree safety surveys as being diseased and close to footpaths and the car park.

Two of the diseased trees were overhanging the Augill Smelt Mill. Any limb shedding would cause further damage to this structure, which is on the Historic England Scheduled Monument At-Risk register.

We made the decision to employ a local firm of tree surgeons to remove both these trees and several other ash trees around the car park. This work was delivered working with our tenant for the reserve; Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

An ash tree trunk with no branches and left as a monolith

This tree was left as a 5m tall ‘monolith‘, which as continues to decay, will provide habitat for birds and bats.

The trees were removed in Mid-January and I went recently to check on their progress. When I arrived they had cordoned off the car park and footpaths and had their climber in the larger of the two trees removing the higher limbs. By the time I left about 2 hours later, they had removed the majority of the limbs, while the ground crew had processed the brash and timber into log piles and brash windrows

The grassland at Augill Pasture is managed by grazing and unusually for our reserves it is grazed by ponies. Two small ponies were put on the reserve in October and were taken off recently, as the weather became very cold at the beginning of January. This grazing will have controlled the growth of the grass species, allowing the forb species enough space to grow as the weather turns warmer.