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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.

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.

The 28th UN Climate Conference of Parties has just drawn to a close in Dubai, during which there had been fierce negotiations over the future of fossil fuels.

In the early hours of this morning the gavel went down and 198 governments agreed to “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner… so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”. This wording is not as strong as we had hoped, but it is the first time fossil fuels have ever been explicitly mentioned in a final agreement (in almost 30 years of climate COPs) and as the UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell said, it is the ‘beginning of the end’ for fossil fuels.

This issue is at the heart of climate action and this agreement was long overdue.

COP28 in Dubai

What else was decided?

There are other key outcomes from this COP which give us reasons for hope:

  • The first ever Global Stock Take includes references to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – the link between biodiversity loss and the climate crisis and ‘protecting, conserving and restoring nature…’ using not only science but Indigenous Peoples knowledge.
  • The newly established Loss and Damage fund, which if you will recall was implemented on the very first day of the conference, making it an historic moment. This fund now sits at $792 million which will go to developing nations in need, recognising that they have been most affected by climate impacts.
  • The Global Goal on Adaptation, designed to “ensure an adequate adaptation response” to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems, talks about the multi-stakeholder approach to adaptation needed, using knowledge from different sectors of society.

Successes for biodiversity, food and farming

More specifically focused on the intertwined climate and nature crises, we welcome two new initiatives coming out of this COP.

1.COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action

The acknowledgement and recognition of the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture and food systems, and on billions of people including smallholders that are dependent on their resilience for food and livelihoods, is a great step in the right direction. Just two years ago, there was little or no mention of this issue, yet 158 governments endorsed the Declaration at COP28.

2. COP28 Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People 

This was an absolutely vital step in ensuring the climate and biodiversity crises are no longer considered as separate issues. We have known for a long time that they are fundamentally and intrinsically linked, and this is the first step in connecting the outcomes of the UNFCCC COP28 and the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

This announcement was made: ‘At COP28 during Nature, Land Use and Ocean Day, we affirm that there is no path to fully achieve the near- and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement or the 2030 goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework without urgently addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation together in a coherent, synergetic and holistic manner, in accordance with the best available science.’

Eighteen governments have endorsed this declaration so far and we need to see many more signing up to this joined-up approach in the weeks ahead.

bird standing in a field of grass

We’re going to keep talking about grasslands

At Plantlife, we work tirelessly to bring the value of grasslands to the forefront of conversations around farming, nature, biodiversity and climate, both in the UK and internationally. Covering more than half the Earth’s land surface and with the livelihoods of around 800 million people depending on them, the importance of grasslands and savannahs cannot be underestimated.

More generally, this COP marked a turning point for the role of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition of their contribution in not only safeguarding 80% of the world’s biodiversity, but their knowledge in living in true harmony with nature. Adopting this way of thinking will be a pivotal step in combating the climate crisis. Plantlife is aware of the importance of Indigenous knowledge particularly when it comes to Important Plant Areas (IPAs), with one of the criteria for identification being related to cultural significance.

You can read more about IPAs here specifically the Chiquitano people of Bolivia who identified 18 IPA sites to protect the Chiquitano dry forest which many of the community depend on for their food and livelihoods.

It is safe to say there was a healthy dose of concern and scepticism about this COP. What would come out of it? Would this be ambitious enough to secure a safe future for generations to come – from large cities in the Global North to the Small Island Developing States on the frontline of the climate crisis? The reference to fossil fuels and the language in the final text can be considered a win, but now we look to parties to solidify the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ of implementing the measures to ensure we stay at or below 1.5 degrees of warming.

One thing is crystal clear: we are at a pivotal moment, for the stability of our planet and all life on Earth, and Plantlife will keep working to show how wild plants and fungi can be at the heart of the solution.

Relevant to COP28

Why nature is an important part of the climate conversation
Blogbird standing in a field of grass

Why nature is an important part of the climate conversation

Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, shares her experience at COP28 understanding the role of nature and Indigenous Peoples in the climate conversation.

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 write this, I’m eating a piece of toast. As you read this, you may be eating something too. All 8.1 billion of us need food. Just like other types of consumption, such as oil and gas, our food consumption requires and releases energy. In fact, the food system is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

two brown cows grazing in a field

Why we’re all talking about food

It therefore makes sense that food is a central focus of the climate Conference of the Parties (CoP28) taking place at the moment in Dubai.

The CoP28 theme today is ‘Food and Agriculture’, which is a good opportunity to put down my toast and highlight some of the food and agriculture discussions at CoP28, and what they mean for wild plants and fungi.

Wild plants and fungi – not just for lunch, but for climate

We rely on wild plants and fungi for so much, however they are the overlooked centrepieces at the heart of all ecosystems.

Take grasslands: the livelihoods of around 800 million people depend on them and they cover more than 50% of the world’s land.

Imagine nomadic reindeer herders navigating the Steppes in Mongolia, or small-scale pastoralists grazing their livestock on Kenyan savannahs. Humans are part of a virtuous Venn diagram, with grasslands at the centre:

  • food is produced from the livestock
  • the livestock provide the grazing needed to maintain a balanced grassland ecosystem
  • the healthy ecosystem stores carbon and is also more resilient to the impacts of climate change
Small square hay bailer in field

But not all agriculture is equal…

It’s important to differentiate this approach to grassland management from the more intensive farming, that shatters the mutualistic relationship between people and the natural environment.

Intensive, large-scale agriculture relies on greenhouse gas-emitting synthetic fertilisers and ploughing, with tightly packed livestock damaging the sensitive flora and degrading the soil.

That’s why we’re looking to world leaders at CoP28 to recognise the value of healthy grasslands and savannahs as part of a sustainable food system, that helps boost biodiversity and tackle climate change.

We need joined-up action across governments and their policies tackling farming, food security, public health, nature & net zero.

CoP28 announcement

At CoP28, 134 countries have signed up to the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025.

This could be an important step towards real action to bring down emissions from global agriculture, in tandem with supporting farmers, pastoralists, and smallholders who farm in a low-carbon way.

However, alongside real action there’s also real risk – of greenwashing. We should be sceptical of subsidies that still go towards funding intensive agriculture, or untested technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll be watching how governments put this Declaration into practice.

Food for thought

Of course, it remains to be seen whether governments will make tangible commitments to actually shift food production away from intensive agricultural practices.

Will governments stop harmful agricultural subsidies and instead pay and support less intensive farming, that helps restore swathes of degraded grassland?

Will they ignore the huge farming and fertiliser lobby to help farmers break free from costly input cycles?

Will the rights of indigenous people and local communities to their land and traditional pastoralism be respected?

We want the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of healthy grasslands to be meaningfully incorporated into countries’ climate and biodiversity strategies.  

As I finish my meal, these are the questions I will ponder ahead of CoP28’s final few days. The solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are by no means bitesize, but I have hope, if we’re all sat together at the same table. 

Jo Riggall

Relevant to COP28

Why nature is an important part of the climate conversation
Blogbird standing in a field of grass

Why nature is an important part of the climate conversation

Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, shares her experience at COP28 understanding the role of nature and Indigenous Peoples in the climate conversation.

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 autumn spectacle of multicoloured waxcaps is an important indicator of ancient grasslands that have been unploughed for decades, and which are rich in carbon and soil biodiversity.  

Unfortunately, many of these irreplaceable grassland fungi sites continue to disappear under tree planting, new houses, intensive farming, transport infrastructure and more. It is certain that many more are also lost unseen, because of a series of interlinked issues that place the conservation of fungi far behind that of other taxa like mammals and birds. 

What issues do grassland fungi face?

The first, and perhaps most important, is the shortage of skilled field surveyors able to identify and record fungi (known as mycologists). Fortunately, there does seem to be an increasing interest in fungi amongst the public. The 1,500 members of Plantlife’s #WaxcapWatch Facebook page is a reflection of this, and is very encouraging.

However, the number of people working professionally as field surveyors remains very low. Most ecological consultancies, who undertake survey work to protect wildlife during development, don’t employ mycologists. 

This lack of expert recorders and recording means that we still have very little data describing the distribution of fungal species across large parts of the country, especially compared to other taxa.

What happens when there is no data?

There is huge pressure on land use today. We need land for farming, for tree planting, for renewable power generation, for housing: the list goes on. Our ability to deliver nature’s recovery depends on us making good decisions when planning these activities. That in turn ensures that nature is protected, and actually restored, in line with government targets and policies. 

However, picture this: plans are afoot to build a large new housing estate on formerly sheep-grazed agricultural land. Ecological surveys are required. However, a search of databases doesn’t reveal any fungal records, because no field mycologists have ever visited the land.

The ecological consultancy visits the site in summer, because that’s when plants, birds and mammals are best surveyed. They don’t employ a mycologist. The plants in the fields aren’t that interesting- and so the proposal gets the go ahead. In fact, the fields are incredibly rich in waxcaps, but nobody knows, and nobody looks. The site is lost without ever being recognised for its biodiversity. 

The impact of development on our hidden fungi

This is a very real problem that Plantlife is currently observing in multiple cases across Wales at present. Fungal surveys are difficult to do, and often considered unreasonably burdensome for developers, even for large projects. As a result, we are losing precious ancient grasslands before we’ve even been able to recognise them for what they are. You can’t compensate for an impact on something you never knew was there. 

It’s also likely to be an increasing problem in the coming years with large infrastructure projects being planned. For example, in Wales there is a huge amount of work scheduled to reinforce our electricity supply grid, with new cabling going in across the country. Julie James MS, the Minister for Climate Change in Wales, has said the presumption will be that new cables will be underground, to reduce the visual impact. Will the impact on fungi be adequately identified and mitigated? At present, that seems unlikely. 

What can we do to help grassland fungi?

All is not lost, and there are many things we can do to address this problem. 

  • We need government, local authority planners, and developers, to recognise that current systems regularly fail to identify sites that are important for fungi, and make sure that the impacts on our internationally important ancient grasslands are better addressed.
  • We need better legal protection for fungi. For example, there are presently only 27 species protected under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, compared to 51 birds and 188 invertebrates.
  • We need more investment in surveying fungi before committing to land use change. That means training and employing more field mycologists, but also making more and better use of new techniques such as eDNA surveys. These surveys can identify fungi present in the soil, and help to reduce our dependence on surveys during the autumn fungal fruiting season.
  • We need more data. We can all help with that, by recording fungi when we see them. Even if you aren’t an expert, you can take part in our Waxcap Watch, which only asks for the colours of grassland fungi you see. This helps to identify sites of potential value. When the value of a site is understood and recorded, it makes it easier to fight to defend that value.

More ways we’re saving wild plants and fungi

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election
A group of protestors holding a banner which reads 'A world rich in plants and fungi'

Give plants and fungi a vote at the general election

We depend on Plants and Fungi, however their future depends on what elected politicians do for nature. Use your vote to give plants and fungi a voice at the 2024 general election.

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?
Garden meadow by pond (c) Shuttleworth

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?

It’s not just trees that capture and store carbon – our meadows and grasslands can play an important role too.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet
Yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel among grass and other bog plants.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate. 

Species Champions are Members of the Welsh Senedd, chosen to represent threatened species found in their constituency and champion them both within the Senedd and across Wales. Carolyn Thomas MS is deeply passionate about supporting our wildlife, from nature friendly green space management to improving protections for our precious biodiversity.

This year, Carolyn was able to join us and North Wales Wildlife Trust for the big Butterfly Orchid count in our North Wales nature reserve Caeau-Tan-y-Bwlch, in June. Participating in the count meant she was able to contribute first-hand to the monitoring and understanding of a rare and beautiful species. 

We counted the highest number of Greater Butterfly Orchids ever recorded at the reserve in over 40 years – some 9,456 flowering spikes of this rare plant were found within the diverse upland hay meadow near Caernarfon. Carolyn reflected on this important day in her Senedd statement on 28 June: 

Last Saturday, as the Butterfly Orchid species champion, I took part in a Butterfly Orchid count at a wildflower meadow, owned by Plantlife Cymru and managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust. The meadow was rich in diverse species, which has created habitat in return for many animals and insects, such as butterflies, ladybirds, damselflies, crickets, spiders and tiny frogs. The place was alive and very beautiful.  

It’s more important than ever to take action for meadows

Another visit to a beautiful meadow just outside Mold in north Wales on National Meadows Day gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss some of the threats that our species-rich grasslands face. Our Species Champion was able to see first-hand how a lack of management was allowing scrub to encroach onto the valuable grassland habitat, but also to hear how the efforts of volunteers were protecting the grassland that remained.

Staff and volunteers from Plantlife Cymru and North Wales Wildlife Trust also talked about how incredibly precious fragments of species-rich grassland can too easily slip through the nets of protection and face damage from neglect, but also from development, agricultural use and inappropriate tree planting.

Orchid sward at Cae Blaen Dyffryn

There was also plenty of time just to appreciate the joy of being in such a beautiful place! We were able to admire both Greater and Lesser Butterfly Orchids, as well as Common Spotted Orchids, carpets of Betony and Lady’s Bedstraw, and we were even treated to the sight of a Slow-worm. Some early Field Scabious was just coming into flower, and sheltered sunny meadow areas were alive with butterflies and moths. 

Championing Welsh meadows at the Senedd

In her statement to the plenary ahead of the visit which you can watch here, Carolyn emphasised to the Senedd the vital nature of thriving green spaces and advocated for the protection and restoration of our species-rich grasslands.

Thank you, Carolyn for supporting us in our mission to support grasslands and the wealth of species that rely on them! 

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 
person holding a plant with white flowers

Rosy Saxifrage reintroduced into Wales after 62 years extinct 

The beautiful mountain plant, Rosy Saxifrage, has returned to the wild in Wales after becoming extinct in 1962.  

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

Full of wonder and mossy goodness these beauties really capture the imagination and lift the spirits of anyone who visits. This unique habitat thrives in areas where there is a high annual rainfall with relatively constant temperatures.

However, temperate rainforests are more than just woodlands; they are a mosaic of trees, open glades, crags, ravines, rocks and gorges. With surfaces absolutely chock full of liches, mosses, liverworts and an array of fungi – they support an important array of wildlife, absorb carbon and slow the flow of floodwaters.  

What is damaging the temperate rainforests in the UK?

Nitrogen gases in air pollution have the potential to destroy these beautiful places. This pollution can take the form of ammonia emissions from farm manures and fertilisers, or nitrogen oxide emissions from fossil fuels.

Even rainforest areas far from the source of pollution, such as the northwest coast of Scotland, are affected by air pollution as it can travel long distances in the atmosphere.  

Trees within the rainforest will temporarily show increased growth from extra nitrogen. However, in the long term any growth will soon stagnate as the earth becomes saturated with excess nitrogen – more than 94% of woodlands are affected by air pollution UK wide.

Higher nitrogen levels mean trees will often suffer from discoloration and increased vulnerability to drought, frost, and disease like acute oak decline.   

Woodland fungi are no exception to impacts of air pollution, as many are closely associated with tree roots and health.

Their loss will result in a further decline of tree species, leading to increasing carbon emissions and further contributing to the ongoing climate crisis. 

How does air pollution affect our wild plants?

A change in flora is sure to follow an increase in air pollution as tougher nitrogen-tolerant plants, such as nettles and brambles, will outcompete the more sensitive and specialist species within the rainforest. This has a cascading effect on other wildlife which rely on certain wild plants for food, shelter, and reproduction.  

Losing species which make up a significant part of the rainforest ground cover, such as mosses and liverworts like Greater Whipwort, reduces the ecosystem’s ability to retain water. This makes the whole area more vulnerable to droughts and floods.   

Facing the loss of lichens

As an essential part of temperate rainforests, lichens require low levels of air pollution to thrive. Lichens provide food, shelter and microhabitats for invertebrates, in addition to contributing to carbon cycling and water retention. Some rare lichen species are only found in rainforest areas and are being pushed to the brink of extinction.

Without lichens, our temperate rainforests would struggle even more to survive. Many are incredibly sensitive to changes in air quality, such as tree lungwort (Lobaria spp) and will quickly be lost to increased levels of nitrogen in the atmosphere.  

Tree Lungwort in particular is an amazing indicator species, as its presence signals that the forest is healthy and functioning as it should. This is because it is a slow growing species that is even more sensitive to air pollution than most other lichens.

Tree Lungwort often can become outcompeted and swamped in nitrogen-tolerant algae, knocking the ecosystem out of balance. When we see populations of lungwort recovering, we know that our air quality is improving and with that, the rainforest. 

How can I help protect temperate rainforest for the future?

Hope is not lost! For one, you are reading this and arming yourself with information to pass onto your family and friends. When you take action on air pollution, you’re benefiting wildlife as well as people’s health.

You can also support Plantlife’s work to inspire further action to reduce air pollution and tackle its impacts on our natural environment.  

Discover more about temperate rainforest

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Hazel Gloves Fungus is a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, learn more about this rainforest fungi this Reverse the Red month.

Lichens: A Beginner in a City
Rob Hodgson with lichen characters

Lichens: A Beginner in a City

Living in Bristol, Rob Hodgson went on his own lichen journey, showing how anyone can go lichen hunting from anywhere.

We are Heading to Dubai for Global Climate Talks
Person 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.

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.