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Monitor our habitats with the help of citizen scientists

The dedication of hundreds of National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) volunteers across the UK is continuing to support research into the health of our habitats.

Rachel Murphy standing in a field filling in a paper form using a yellow pencil in her hands

A dedicated army of citizen scientists has played a key role in monitoring changes in plant abundance and diversity by surveying more than 1,200 plots over the past 12 months.

During 2022/23, nearly 300 volunteers made a difference by supporting the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS). This partnership project is organised and funded by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland and Plantlife.

It sees annual botanical surveys take place at sites stretching from the Channel Islands to the Shetlands to provide important data about the plant species which are the foundations of our ecosystems.

Thanks to our hard-working volunteers, over 18,000 individual records of 943 species or species groups were taken during the year.

This information has been added to a growing dataset which is helping us understand more about how the health or our habitats is changing over time. Both the abundance and diversity of plant species across different semi-natural habitats is being measured to create a rich body of evidence to shape future management and conservation approaches.

The year in numbers

Making best use of our findings

The NPMS dataset from 2015 – 2022 is now available through the Environmental Information Data Centre. A second dataset of NPMS habitat samples for 2015 – 2022 has also been released. This shows habitat data for each plot, as well as an assessment of whether it has changed between surveys.

A man kneeling in a field holding a clipboard with papers investigated a quadrant marked in the grass

This information plays a vital role in supporting research into the health of our habitats. It can be used to quality assure and evaluate Earth Observation initiatives, which help us to better understand the planet.

The data also highlights areas where the habitat has changed as specific locations of interest where further investigation or monitoring may be beneficial.

And the findings of our citizen scientists are already being well-used, with NPMS records on species occurrence included within Global Biodiversity Information Facility datasets to support almost 300 academic publications to date.

More ‘Protect and Restore’ Projects

Conservation of rare Brecks flora gathers pace
Four people are kneeling on a brown dry ground surrounding a square on the ground

Conservation of rare Brecks flora gathers pace

It has been another successful year for our dedicated volunteers who are helping to monitor plant populations in the Brecks.

Creating and restoring habitats at our nature reserves
Two person working on a log, one is shaving the wood log and the other holding the log in the woodland.

Creating and restoring habitats at our nature reserves

We have enhanced habitats at Greena Moor, our culm grassland nature reserve in north Cornwall, for the benefit of three critical species.

Restoring dynamic dunescapes at Braunton Burrows
A tall grass plant is in the foreground and a cool grassy dunescape is in the background

Restoring dynamic dunescapes at Braunton Burrows

Plantlife has continued to lead the biggest sand dune restoration works ever attempted in the UK, with impressive results.