A list of more than 150 Important Plant Areas (IPA) in the UK is published today to help boost conservation action and focus attention towards internationally important sites.
Plantlife International compiled the list after working with botanical and conservation organisations, including the Natural History Museum, and governmental agencies such as Natural England.
Some of the areas included are the New Forest and The Lizard in England, the Gower Peninsula and Snowdon in Wales, Ben Lawers and the Cairngorms in Scotland and Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.
Scientists at the Natural History Museum helped to identify habitats where rare mosses, lichens and seaweed are found. For example, Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest and the New Forest are important areas for a very rare moss that is only found on, increasingly rare, ancient trees that are wounded.
As well as spotlighting internationally important plant life and plant habitats across the UK for the first time, the initiative acknowledges that plants are the ‘bedrock’ underpinning all our nation’s wildlife.
‘We’d like to see plant conservation higher up the agenda of local and regional government in the areas where we have identified internationally important areas for wild plants,’ says Plantlife’s Chief Executive Victoria Chester.
‘Publishing and promoting this list of plant diversity hotspots around the UK will help focus decision-making on conservation at a larger, ecosystem scale instead of solely focusing on sites rich in one or two species.’
The identification of Important Plant Areas is underway in 16 countries across Europe so far, and in Africa, Asia, Canada, New Zealand, the Arabian Peninsula and the Himalayas.
‘Publishing this list demonstrates the botanical richness that has managed to survive across the UK despite threats from urban development, industry and intensive or inappropriate agriculture,’ said Ms Chester.
‘Conserving these Important Plant Areas is vital, and having a network of larger scale sites will help plants to survive in the face of climate change and other pressures on our natural world.’
Plantlife and its partner organisations will continue mapping the existing Important Plant Areas and will identify new areas as more information becomes available.