Help Needed To Better Understand Changes In Our Countryside

* NPMS results are delivering a clearer understanding of plant species and habitat changes across Scotland and the rest of the UK

* Public's help needed to refuel NPMS and fill the significant gap in UK biodiversity surveillance

* From climate change to air pollution, plants face an increasing array of challenges

* SIGN-UP TO HELP MONITOR PLANTS HERE

Members of the public are being invited to join the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS), the leading long-term habitat-based plant monitoring scheme.

NPMS, which launched in 2015 and has since been adopted by the Scottish government as a measure for the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, is already transforming how we understand plant communities and their habitats and Plantlife and partners now need help from anyone who cares about how our countryside is changing so that the survey can continue to go from strength to strength.

Hayley New, Plantlife's NPMS Volunteer Coordinator, said: "Thankfully we have a very good understanding of changes in the populations of birds, butterflies and bats. But despite plants being the very foundation of habitats and ecosystems, we do not currently have a good measure of changes in plant populations across the country. Given plants fuel the diversity of life it is essential that we better understand the changes underway across the countryside at large."

"From climate change to air pollution, plants face an increasing array of challenges and it is essential that we improve monitoring so that we are able to fill the green gap in UK biodiversity surveillance and step up conservation efforts where necessary."

"NPMS' 1,100 volunteers are doing an absolutely sterling job monitoring 28 habitats including moorland, grassland and woodland, but now, more than ever, volunteers are needed to take the project to the next level. More survey squares need adopting if we are to get an accurate picture of plant life."

Getting involved as a NPMS surveyor could not be simpler. Different levels of participation ensure that all who are keen can participate: you do not have to be an experienced botanist.

How it works

After some free training, volunteers are allocated a convenient 1km square to visit. Within each 1km square volunteers are asked to record around five plots in semi-natural habitats. Volunteers, who are all armed with a full-colour booklet covering all the flowers, with hints on how to distinguish them, are asked to identify between 25-30 'indicator species' per habitat. These are distinctive species specially selected to allow partners to monitor changes in the countryside.

For example, on grassland on open hillsides volunteers look for species including yarrow, with pinky-white clusters of flowers and long feathery leaves; delicate white-flowered Lesser Stitchwort; and tiny Heath Speedwell with its pale lilac flowers.

Oliver Pescott, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said: “Initial results from NPMS are allowing us to quantify the smaller changes that are occurring within our most valuable habitats. In the past, volunteer-collected data have been able to demonstrate the results of large-scale habitat loss over the last century, now we would like to reveal even more detail about the changes within the remaining areas of these habitats in our landscape.”